WASHINGTON: President Trump’s righting of prosecutorial wrongs seems to be a new favorite pastime. Today he pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza. Tomorrow it may be pardoning Martha Stewart. Or the commutation of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich’s sentence. Blagojevich is in federal prison on corruption charges stemming from comments made regarding “getting something” for Obama’s Senate seat. Businesswoman Martha Stewart conviction was for obstructing an investigation into a stock sale in 2004.
To be clear, a pardon “erases” the crime while a commutation ends the punishment.
Reversing DOJ and FBI high-profile victories
Speaking of the Blagojevich conviction, Trump said bragging about getting something back for a Senate appointment was “a stupid thing to say” but that the length of Mr. Blagojevich’s sentence might be excessive.
“I am seriously thinking of a curtailment of Blagojevich,” Mr. Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. He said he didn’t know Mr. Blagojevich “other than that he was on ‘The Apprentice’ for a short period of time.”
“He shouldn’t have been put in jail,” Mr. Trump said. “And he’s a Democrat. He’s not my party. But I thought that he was treated unfairly.”
Patrick Fitzgerald who is now James Comey’s present lawyer was the prosecutor during the Blagojevich trial.
DIY Pardon of Martha Stewart
While the President says he only briefly knew Blagojevich from when he appeared on The Apprentice, he says that he knows Stewart better. In 2005 Stewart was the host of an Apprentice spin-off. Notable is that the two have publicly feuded and Ms. Stewart publicly backed Mr. Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Nonetheless, Trump’s pardon of Stewart would go toward unraveling the legacy of James Comey, who was the U.S. Attorney in the Martha Stewart Case.
Bypassing the DOJ with the Dinesh D’Souza pardon
Dinesh D’Souza was found to be in violation of federal election laws when he made proxy donations to the campaign of New York’s Wendy Long who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2012 and 2016. Bypassing the Justice Department in issuing the pardon, has given anti-Trump politicians and commentators apoplexy.
Critics are claiming that the President is offering pardons to prominent conservatives, including former White House aide Scooter Libby and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in order to set the stage to offer pardons to persons such as Paul Manafort.
Walter Schaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, posted:
Imagine if Nixon had been waiting with a stack of pardons for his Plumbers to return from the Watergate break-in. A president may not be above the law, but he has the power to put his henchmen above the law. That’s what Trump is telling Manafort & others with the D’Souza pardon.
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) May 31, 2018
Obviously, Mr. Schaub is predicting future actions, a favorite pastime of liberal elites.
Matthew Charles file should be on the President’s desk
Matthew Charles was serving 35 years in prison for selling crack. Serving 21 years of his sentence he was, by all accounts, an exemplary inmate. Taking college classes, Charles became a law clerk, and helped other inmates earn their GEDs.
In 2016, he was part of an Obama initiative to lessen the sentences of non-violent offenders. Thus allowing Charles to leave prison and restart his life. He was able to obtain a job, join a church and become a volunteer in his community.
Unfortunately, Charles is now going back to prison for another 14 years. Not because he re-offended, but as a result of the federal government determining that his release was an “error.”
The policy instituted by Obama doesn’t actually apply to him, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Matthew Charles will be taken from the life he spent the last two years rebuilding, all because of a technicality. President Trump needs to right this wrong.
Kim Kardashian’s clemency plea on behalf of Alice Johnson
President Trump is not only issuing pardons for celebrities. He is looking at instances of unfair sentencing. Recently he issued a posthumous pardon to African-American boxing hero Jack Johnson.
This week Kim Kardashian met with Jared Kushner and the President to request clemency for Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old great-grandmother from Tennessee. Johnson has served 21 years of a life without parole sentence issued in 1997. Harshly, Johnson was convicted on eight criminal counts for cocaine trafficking including a charge for passing messages between drug dealers.
During her trial, ten co-defendants testified against Johnson in exchange for reduced or dropped charges. In support of her clemency bid, Johnson has a letter of support from Amy Povah, a past warden of the prison where Johnson is being held. Povah has told the BBC News agency that Johnson “always stood out to me as being exceptional. She’s not bitter or angry, she’s this ray of sunshine.”
In addition, during her two decades of incarceration, Johnson has become an ordained minister and acted as a mentor to young women serving time.
Obama’s rejection of Johnson’s clemency plea
Johnson’s last bid for clemency was rejected just days before the end of Barack Obama’s presidency. President Obama failed to act on behalf of the woman, who was a first time offender, on three different occasions. Despite a petition with over 100,000 signatures asking the president for his clemency.
While ignoring Johnson plea for clemency, Obama did pardon 231 persons in just one day before leaving office. Nonetheless, by December 20, 2016, Obama granted 1,176 commutations, including 395 life sentences.
Reading through the list, it is interesting to note that many of those pardoned by President Obama had similar convictions. However, their sentences are significantly different.
For example, Brian Seiji Kito was sentenced to one year and one day of imprisonment and four years supervision upon release for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.
Past controversial presidential pardons
President Obama not only shortened the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking government secrets. However, even more controversial is Obama’s commutation of the sentence of then 74-year-old Oscar Lopez Rivera, a Puerto Rican nationalist and member of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), a radical Marxist Puerto Rican independence group.
Lopez served 35 years of a 55-year conviction for “seditious conspiracy” among other charges. And should have served his entire conviction, particularly as he continued to act while in prison.