November 30th, 2017. February 22nd, 2018. These are the two dates, more than any others, that will go down in history as having assured Donald Trump’s demise and ouster. One is the last day that Trump could have pardoned his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn before he cut a plea deal and promptly began spilling his guts. The other is the last day that Trump could have done the same with his former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates. Some folks on Trump’s side still don’t get it.
Now that Donald Trump has pardoned alt-right whack job Dinesh D’Souza, and is talking about pardoning Martha Stewart of all people, Trump’s base is once again getting its hopes up about Trump somehow magically pardoning his way out of this. In their delusions, not only is Trump going to pardon Michael Cohen and Roger Stone, he’s going to pardon Michael Flynn too. Nevermind, of course, that Flynn has already testified against Trump, and a pardon would do Trump literally zero good.
But here’s Roger Stone, who is either a naive idiot or he’s pretending to be one, telling the media that Donald Trump is on the verge of pardoning Flynn. Sorry, that’s not how any of this works. Trump blew his chance to play the pardon game when he failed to pardon Flynn before his plea deal. And if Trump was hoping to discredit Flynn’s testimony while ensuring there were no other witnesses, he blew that when he failed to pardon Gates before his deal. It’s infinitely more difficult to discredit two different witnesses who weren’t even friendly toward each other.
For all we know, tomorrow Donald Trump will try to escalate things by pardoning Charles Manson and Barney the Dinosaur. But none of it matters. The pardon game was never going to work, due to the probability of those pardons being invalidated by the courts, the state level charges in place as a fallback, and the loss of Fifth Amendment protection even if the pardons did somehow get these folks off the hook. But the pardon game was officially over when Trump declined to pardon Flynn and Gates before they cut deals and spilled their guts. It’s simply too late.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report