In the final days of his administration, Donald Trump handed out 74 pardons and commuted the sentences of 70 others who had been convicted and sentenced to federal prison.
NBC News notes that many of those who received pardons from Trump were close friends, former associates, or people he believed would somehow endear him to the rich assholes he’s known to hang out with at Mar-a-Lago:
“A list of 143 people included his former chief strategist and longtime ally Steve Bannon as well as his former top fundraiser Elliott Broidy. Then, with less than an hour to go before President-elect Joe Biden was set to be sworn in, Trump granted one last pardon: to Albert J. Pirro, Jr., the ex-husband of Fox News host and longtime ally Jeanine Pirro.”
But some of those pardons were so narrowly constructed and written that they leave the recipients open to prosecution by the Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Former Mueller investigation chief prosecutor Andrew Weissmann spelled out the mistakes Trump made in the pardons of two individuals, longtime Trump friend and confidant Roger Stone and Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, Paul Manafort, in an article he wrote for Just Security:
“The pardon for Paul Manafort (on Dec. 23, 2020), is illustrative. By its own terms, the pardon covers only the crimes “for his conviction” on specific charges and not any other crimes (charged or uncharged). Specifically, the pardon is solely for the crimes of conviction — eight in the Eastern District of Virginia and two in the District of Columbia. That leaves numerous crimes as to which Manafort can still be prosecuted, as in Virginia there were 10 hung counts. In Washington, the situation is even more wide open. In that district, Manafort pleaded to a superseding information containing two conspiracy charges, while the entire underlying indictment — containing numerous crimes from money laundering, to witness tampering, to violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act — now remains open to prosecution as there was no conviction for those charges.”
And then we have Roger Stone and a rouges gallery of other criminals:
“Manafort is not the only example of narrow Trump pardons that may be rectified by the incoming Attorney General. The same narrow pardons were provided to Special Counsel Office defendants Roger Stone (Dec. 23, 2020), George Papadopoulos (Dec. 22, 2020), and Alex van den Zwaan (Dec. 22, 2020), as well as the myriad other felons who received pardons or commutations on December 22 and 23, 2020. As noted, these defendants include murderers, corrupt politicians and law enforcement officers, and Philip Esformes, the single largest health care fraudster in history. These windows of opportunity are due in significant part to a practice followed by prosecutors’ offices across the country: permitting defendants to plead to some, but not all, of their crimes. That feature of these cases should now redound to the benefit of the government, as it may now permit the Department to see that justice is done.”
All of these people can be tried and convicted once again, and this time they won’t be getting a presidential pardon, so they’ll have to serve all of their sentences without the promise of a get-out-of-jail free card waiting for them if they agree to not testify against Trump.
As with everything he does, Donald Trump failed. He wanted to provide protection to those who didn’t testify against him, but all he did was make it more likely they’ll wind up in prison for much longer than they anticipated.