Donald Trump was never going to be able to pardon his way out of his criminal scandals. Trump’s difficulty in pardoning alleged co-conspirators on federal charges, along with Trump’s total inability to pardon anyone on state charges, means that Trump can’t fully get his underlings off the hook. The question has been whether they’ve understood this, or if they’ve been naively holding out for imaginary pardons. Now Robert Mueller has revealed that he’s the one who actually has the equivalent of pardon power in this investigation.
Michael Flynn stands accused of having conspired with the government of Russia against the United States, of having plotted to kidnap a guy in Pennsylvania and turn him over to the government of Turkey to be tortured, and other stunning crimes against America. Yet Robert Mueller has basically pardoned Flynn tonight, urging the judge to give Flynn as little as zero time in prison, because Flynn has been just that helpful.
Why is Mueller giving a free pass to such a hideous criminal like Flynn? Even with all the hugely helpful cooperation that Flynn provided, Mueller still could have recommended a somewhat harsh prison sentence. So this free pass isn’t about Mueller trying to get anything more out of Flynn, who has already given up everyone and everything. This is about Mueller sending a message to everyone else.
Yesterday we saw Donald Trump use Twitter to try to con Roger Stone into thinking he’s going to get pardoned if he remains loyal. Stone is on track to spend the rest of his life in prison, so that kind of offer has to be tempting, even though Stone knows it’s not real. But now Robert Mueller is saying to Stone, and other people in his position, “Hey, come play for my team instead. Unlike Trump, I can actually get people off the hook.”
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report