Even as Donald Trump’s own henchmen continue to go to prison, some of them for committing crimes at his instruction, he’s remained unwilling to take the risk of trying to pardon them. After all, making such a move could force an immediate court resolution on the question of whether a president can pardon his alleged co-conspirators, which could prematurely wipe out his ability to pardon his own family on his way out the door. But now Trump is pardoning one of his buddies for a crime that Trump himself is slated to eventually go to prison for.
Donald Trump has pardoned former newspaper mogul Conrad Black. This shouldn’t come as a shock, considering that Trump and Black are old friends who were once partners on the Trump Tower Chicago real estate project. Black has also written a book which kissed up to Trump. But this isn’t merely a matter of Trump getting an old pal off the hook. One of the felonies that Black went to prison for: obstruction of justice. Well that can’t be a coincidence.
The redacted Mueller report documents ten instances where Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice. The Mueller report also explicitly spells out that Trump can be criminally indicted and tried for these crimes once he’s out of office, whether he’s impeached for them or not. It’s why there’s essentially no doubt that Trump is headed for prison once he’s out of office. That is, of course, unless he can find a way to pardon himself for obstruction of justice on his way out the door.
If Donald Trump tries this, the Supreme Court will have to rule whether such a pardon is constitutional. Trump would have a heck of a difficult time trying to argue that pardon power was intended to be used this way. But he’d try to boost his weak argument by saying that since he’s already pardoned other people for obstruction of justice, he should be able to pardon himself for it. So maybe Trump’s lawyers have advised him to start laying the groundwork for this. Or maybe Trump is just blowing off steam by trying to prove to himself that obstruction somehow isn’t a crime. But if the federal government doesn’t put Trump in prison for obstruction, New York State will put him in prison after he’s out of office anyway – and no president can pardon that.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report