With the newest Hillary Clinton debacle, the issue of presidential pardons has, once again, come up. As I’ve been writing for quite some time, I have no doubt Barack Obama will, in a veritable blizzard of pardons, absolve Hillary Clinton and anyone else that could possibly do him harm. But can a president pardon him—or her—self?
Anyone thinking my predictions outlandish, need only refer to the continuing record of Mr. Obama’s pardons and clemencies, such as this from The Washington Post:
President Obama granted clemency to another 102 inmates on Thursday, as he continues to release federal inmates serving long prison terms for nonviolent drug offenses. Obama has now commuted the sentences of 774 federal inmates, more than the previous 11 presidents combined.
With 590 commutations this year, the president has commuted more individuals’ sentences in one year than in any single year in U.S. history, White House officials said.
He’s freed 774 hardened criminals?! Keep in mind, gentle readers, that we’re not talking about people that got caught driving drunk and ended up in the local county jail. These are people that committed multiple felonies—federal felonies–including firearm related offenses. They’re, in most cases, the worst of the worst. Oh, but Mr. Obama isn’t settling for such a paltry record, as US News.com reports:
Ninety-eight federal inmates will return home sooner than expected after President Barack Obama commuted their sentences on Thursday, part of a clemency push that has sped up dramatically in Obama’s final months.
All told, Obama has cut short sentences for 872 inmates, including 688 this year. The figure is higher than the number commuted by the previous 11 presidents combined, and the White House said more commutations were coming before Obama leaves office in January. Of the latest batch, 42 had been serving life sentences, the White House said. [Skip]
Almost all the prisoners had been convicted of nonviolent drug crimes — mostly involving cocaine or methamphetamine. Some were also serving time for firearms violations in connection to drug trafficking, possession or sales. Almost all are men who come from every corner of the U.S.
What?! “42 had been serving life sentences.” People don’t get life sentences for jaywalking. But hey, Barack Obama knows best. After all, he’s been an illegal drug user most of his life, so he’s best qualified to judge all of his fellow druggies. Drug crimes, particularly selling drugs, always involve violence and the destruction of lives.
I addressed the legal issue revolving around pardons back in 2014 in Pardon Me:
The President…shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
A president may not pardon himself to avoid impeachment, but with one other exception, his pardon power is unlimited. That exception? He may not issue a pardon for an offense that has not yet been committed. There are no get out of jail free cards for this, because it would have the effect of allowing a president to simply wipe away any law. While this is a well-established constitutional principle, Barack Obama has never been constrained by something as insubstantial as the Constitution, and has already ignored or rewritten many laws, and will doubtless ignore or rewrite many more. As he has often said, he has a pen and a phone. Why not simply pardon people for crimes not yet committed?
While Mr. Obama will almost certainly never face criminal penalties for his actions, it is not a certainty that a president cannot pardon himself. A self-pardon would obviously put a president above the law, making a mockery of the rule of law. However, there is more than ample evidence that Mr. Obama has already repeatedly put himself above the law, and has suffered for it not at all, except in declining popularity in polls. With impeachment off the table, what does he care about poll results?
Mr. Obama’s behavior is a result of arrogance, almost unimaginable narcissism, and a true believer’s faith in his ideology. Call that ideology Marxist, statist, socialist, leftist, progressive, choose any or all, for elements of each are present, but all amount to the fundamental transformation–the destruction–of our constitutional republic and individual liberty. That day grows nearer as our military is debilitated, our enemies–vicious barbarians anxious to use the nuclear weapons soon to be in the hands of the Iranians–grow stronger, our allies are ignored and/or insulted, and Obama plays yet another round of golf or takes another multi-million dollar taxpayer-funded vacation.
Professor Kagan is right as well. There is a substantial element of ignorance, even rank stupidity in much that Mr. Obama has done and will do. This is a natural result of the arrogance and narcissism of a man that believes himself more brilliant than any of his advisors, and surrounds himself with people whose primary function is to praise him. When one cannot learn from mistakes because nothing he does can possibly be wrong, ignorance, error and stupidity become the inevitable drivers of policy.
By all means, take the link and read the original article. There’s much more there. The terrible truth is it is not clear if a president can pardon himself. A dishonorable president can do pretty much whatever the Congress and courts allow them to do, and Barack Obama has taken full advantage of this. It is a certainty Hillary Clinton would do no less, and likely, far more.
Consider this from that same article. It would seem to apply rather well to Hillary Clinton:
The groundwork has been laid. A fog of cynical apathy has descended over America. So outrageous and frequent have been the lawlessness and crimes of Mr. Obama and his sycophants that Americans, for the most part, merely shrug in tired resignation at each new revelation. Scandals that would have ruined any previous president are now barely reported, and if known, evoke little more than a disgusted, resigned shake of the head and a muttered ‘so what else is new?’ The Congress, its constitutional role and prerogatives usurped, lacks the courage to do more than profess faux outrage for the occasional news camera, while multiple committees and sub committees conduct ‘investigations’ that amount to little more that congressional posturing before the cameras.
It is difficult indeed to imagine how the Congress could muster the political will to impeach Mr. Obama. It’s harder still to imagine how the Senate, particularly should it remain in Democrat hands, would ever convict. Could even the nuclear annihilation of Tel Aviv or an American city be sufficient? And should the next president also be a democrat, there will surely be no prosecutions, even if there were not wholesale pardons.
Unlike the American people and our allies, Barack Obama and his functionaries have little to fear. Mr. Obama has a golf bag full of pardons, and he will not be afraid to use them.
As predicted, Mr. Obama as not been in the least afraid to pardon among the nation’s most dangerous and vicious criminals. Drug dealers and drug lords tend not to play by the rules of polite society.
I expanded a bit on these issues in Barack Obama, Pardon The Worst, in August of 2016:
I hate to say ‘I told you so,’ but I told you so. Presidents have near-total pardon/commutation powers. There are only two certain limitations: they cannot pardon those convicted of state-level crimes; their pardon powers affect only federal crimes. They cannot pardon governmental officials in the process of impeachment, or that have been impeached. Legal scholars disagree on other related issues. For example, can a President pardon himself? Maybe. Can a President pardon for crimes not yet committed? More legal scholars think he cannot, for if he could, he would in essence be writing law, or at least, foreclosing entire avenues of law the Congress might wish to establish.
But a president with a pen and a phone, a president that recognizes no restraints on his powers and has no respect for the Constitution? What limits him?
What limits him—or her—indeed? There are far more important considerations to the use of the pardon power:
For those interested in taking the link to the Government’s listing of Mr. Obama’s pardons, it’s important to keep in mind that the official recitation of the charges on which a felon was convicted is far from the number and severity of crimes they committed. For example, during my days as a detective investigating burglaries from motor vehicles, I would commonly arrest people for committing hundreds of burglaries with many related offenses, including destruction of property and even arson, all felonies. However, we would virtually always bargain those stratospheric numbers to three or four felonies of our choosing. The official conviction record would indicate only an eight-year sentence for three felonies, while they could have faced multiple lifetimes in prison for the hundreds of felonies they actually committed. We did this to get complete cooperation from the criminals, to recover as much of the stolen property as possible–to return it to its amazed owners–and to identify and convict other criminals.
It appears that these commutations are primarily an effort by Mr. Obama to wipe away federal drug laws, laws he has been unable to erase by legislative means. We know this because most of these people are not convicted of random crimes, but of a small class of drug offenses. Be aware that if these felons were serving life sentences–and many of them were–they were not merely hapless, lower level street criminals put in jail for possession of small amounts of drugs or smoking a joint. These were among the most dangerous, violent, experienced drug criminals in circulation. They were not victims of excessive, unreasonable sentences. They deserved far, far more punishment. Many people, including Mr. Obama, forget or refuse to recognize one of the most important functions of prison, as he has done when he recently observed that it costs $80 billion a year to incarcerate so many criminals. The greatest value of prisons is not rehabilitation, but separation; while incarcerated, the worst criminals among us, true psychopaths and sociopaths, are not committing crimes. They’re not making more victims. Allowing such monsters to roam free among us costs far more, financially, than the pocket change–to him–amount that so faux-concerns Mr. Obama. The cost in rape, torture, injury, maiming, and death is incalculable.
We should never be freeing early those who, given full due process and stacks of public money for every possible chance at appeal, were lawfully convicted and separated from the society upon which they delightedly prey.
Commutations and pardons are intended to be instruments of mercy and encouragement. They are intended to be granted only to those denied justice, people who were wrongfully convicted, pursued by overzealous prosecutors, or who were the victims of serious irregularities in the justice system, irregularities overlooked by the courts. Alternately, they should be granted only to non-violent offenders, people who have served a significant portion of their sentences, and who have demonstrated genuine remorse and contrition, people that are highly likely to not only never again commit crimes, but to be a benefit to their communities.
Accordingly, each individual case should be carefully considered, which is why there are rules, regulations and procedures in place to ensure pardons and commutations are not given to the undeserving and dangerous. As I noted in Barack Obama: The Hardest Working Man In Politics, and Barack Obama: How Does He Fit All Of That Into 24-Hour Days? Mr. Obama is not, by any definition, a hard worker. On the days when there is anything on his official schedule, he may show up for work in the mid to late morning, take a two or three hour lunch, and knock off for the day around fourish. As I noted in Barack Obama, Muslims and Intelligence, Mr. Obama refuses, more than half the time, to attend his daily intelligence briefing, though he claims to read it. By comparison, George W. Bush never missed a daily intelligence brief.
What does this mean? Barack Obama is a President that can’t be bothered to regularly come in to work, or to get daily intelligence information vital to the nation’s security. By refusing to meet with the briefers, he denies himself the clarifications and explanations absolutely vital to understanding the raw data written in the briefs.
How likely is it that Mr. Obama, a man who only occasionally shows up for work, who can’t be bothered about half the time to pay attention to the nation’s security, personally reviewed each of the records of those criminals? How likely is it he carefully considered the societal costs of the release of each of them?
What’s most likely is he simply told his aides to pick a large number of drug offenders, particularly black drug offenders, and he’s turning them loose so he can claim records for his legacy.
We can be certain that Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, should she be elected, will pay great attention indeed to ensuring their toadies remain quiet and do them no harm. As always, people like them turn law meant to be merciful into destruction.