ISSN 2330-717X

The Presidential Pardons – OpEd


Remember Lewis “Scooter” Libby who served as an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney?
From 2001 to 2005, Libby held the offices of Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs and Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States and Assistant to the President during the administration of President George W. Bush.

In October 2005, Libby resigned from all three government positions after he was indicted on five counts by a federal grand jury concerning the investigation of the leak of the covert identity of Central Intelligence Agency officer Valerie Plame Wilson. He was subsequently convicted of four counts (one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and one count of making false statements), making him the highest-ranking White House official convicted in a government scandal since John Poindexter, the national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan in the Iran–Contra affair.

After a failed appeal, President Bush commuted Libby’s sentence of 30 months in federal prison, leaving the other parts of his sentence intact. President Donald Trump fully pardoned Libby on April 13, 2018.
Remember Joe Arpaio who made a name as “America’s Toughest Sheriff”? He was the 36th Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona for 24 years, from 1993 to 2017. Arpaio has been accused of various types of police misconduct, including abuse of power, misuse of funds, failure to investigate sex crimes, improper clearance of cases, unlawful enforcement of immigration laws, and election law violations. A Federal court monitor was appointed to oversee his office’s operations because of complaints of racial profiling. The U.S. Department of Justice concluded that Arpaio oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history, and subsequently filed suit against him for unlawful discriminatory police conduct. Arpaio’s office paid more than $146 million in fees, settlements, and court awards.

Over the course of his career, Arpaio was the subject of several federal civil rights lawsuits. In one case he was a defendant in a decade-long suit in which a federal court issued an injunction barring him from conducting further “immigration round-ups”. A federal court subsequently found that after the order was issued, Arpaio’s office continued to detain “persons for further investigation without reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is being committed.” In July 2017, he was convicted of criminal contempt of court, a crime for which he was pardoned by President Donald Trump on August 25, 2017.

The latest white-collar convicted criminal to get the presidential pardon is Dinesh D’Souza. Born in Bombay, D’Souza came to the United States as an exchange student and graduated from Dartmouth College. He became a naturalized citizen in 1991. He made a notoriety of being a hate provocateur since his Dartmouth College days. His neo-conservative views made him a darling among the right-wing Christians within the Republican Party.

In August 2010, D’Souza was named president of The King’s College, a small, Christian liberal arts college in Manhattan. On October 18, 2012, he resigned his post at The King’s College following a press report that he had shared a hotel room at a Christian conference with a woman whom he introduced as his fiancée, despite still being married to his wife of 20 years.

On May 20, 2014, D’Souza pleaded guilty in federal court to one charge of using a “straw donor” to make an illegal campaign contribution to a 2012 United States Senate campaign, a felony. On September 23, he was sentenced to eight months in a halfway house near his home in San Diego, five-years of probation, and a $30,000 fine. On May 31, 2018, D’Souza was issued a full pardon by President Donald Trump.

By pardoning three high-profile neocons, is Trump sending a message to his former aides or accomplices with the Russia-gate?

Anthony Zurcher tries to provide the answer. He says, “The president could be sending a message to his people that he views that they – like Libby, Arpaio and D’Souza – are the targets of out-of-control federal prosecutors. Perhaps he is offering a very visible display of his willingness to use his sweeping authority to remedy what he perceives not just as wrongs in the past – but also those that may come.

At the very least, with his actions and Thursday’s comments that he is entertaining pardons for former Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (abuse of power) and home-decor guru Martha Stewart (obstruction of justice and lying to investigators), the president is demonstrating that he is willing to exercise a much freer hand with his presidential powers.

Over the years the presidential pardon authority has been governed by an extended (some would say overly bureaucratic) process of review and approval by Department of Justice lawyers.”

By the way, the presidential pardons are neither an innovation nor an abuse of the presidential power. As the executive head of the state, in accordance with the United States Constitution’s Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, the president is entitled to pardon anyone.

George HW Bush pardoned Reagan-era Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger. He also pardoned Eliott Abrams who was convicted of withholding information from Congress about the Iran–Contra affair while serving under Reagan. Abrams remains a die-hard Zionist and continues to play a major promoter for war against Muslim countries in the Middle East.

Bill Clinton pardoned financier and deep-pocketed political donor Marc Rich who was charged with tax evasion. He also pardoned his brother Roger Clinton, Jr.. after serving a year in federal prison for cocaine possession.

Both Weinberger’s and Rich’s pardons came in the final days of a presidency and were met with controversy and outcry.

Barack Obama granted official mercy to 1,927, and that was down from Franklin Roosevelt’s (the longest-serving president) whopping 3,687 pardons and commutations.

Richard Nixon is the only president to have both issued pardons and received one (from his successor, Gerald Ford).

While many in the opposition see Trump’s pardon as eroding political norm and flexing political power the scope of which, in the US Constitution, is largely undefined, his supporters find his actions are ones of liberation, absolving those who had been unjustly punished – even for crimes they have admitted committing. Conservative commentator and Trump critic David Frum of The Atlantic has a more blunt assessment. “The most effective way for an authoritarian leader to abuse the law is not by prosecuting the innocent, but by protecting the guilty,” he tweeted.

Roger Stone, the longtime friend and former aide to President Trump, said that his presidential pardons are a message to special counsel Robert Mueller. “It has to be a signal to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort and even Robert S. Mueller III,” Stone told the Washington Post. “Indict people for crimes that don’t pertain to Russian collusion and this is what could happen.”

“The special counsel has awesome powers, as you know,” he explained, “but the president has even more awesome powers.”

Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) agreed with Stone’s assessment, but he saw it as a dangerous development. “But the possibility that he may also be sending a message to witnesses in a criminal investigation into his campaign is extremely dangerous,” he added. “In the United States of America, no one is above the law.”

I wish Senator Warner is right and Trump is impeached for his crimes, even though he may later be pardoned by Pence, his VP, a la Nixon-Ford style! Where is America heading to?

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Dr. Habib Siddiqui

Dr. Habib Siddiqui has a long history as a peaceful activist in an effort towards improving human rights and creating a just and equitable world. He has written extensively in the arena of humanity, global politics, social conscience and human rights since 1980, many of which have appeared in newspapers, magazines, journals and the Internet. He has tirelessly championed the cause of the disadvantaged, the poor and the forgotten here in Americas and abroad. Commenting on his articles, others have said, "His meticulously researched essays and articles combined with real human dimensions on the plight of the displaced peoples of Rohingya in Myanmar, Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo and Palestine, and American Muslims in the post-9/11 era have made him a singular important intellectual offering a sane voice with counterpoints to the shrill threats of the oppressors and the powerful. He offers a fresh and insightful perspective on a whole generation of a misunderstood and displaced people with little or no voice of their own." He has authored 11 books, five of which are now available through His latest book - Devotional Stories is published by A.S. Noordeen, Malaysia.

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