Opinion | Is Trump Abusing Presidential Pardons?

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Pardons 2 More Figures in Russia Inquiry” (front page, Dec. 23):

President Trump just pardoned felons who lied for him during the Russia probe, corrupt members of Congress and four war criminals convicted of killing innocent unarmed Iraqi civilians — men, women and children.

Presidential pardon power was established by the founders for selectively and sparingly granting mercy and forgiveness to genuinely repentant individuals and for correcting mistakes and historical inequities in the judicial process. It was not aimed at setting free one’s corrupt, unrepentant political cronies or mass murderers, without consideration of their admission of guilt, remorse or time served.

Although Mr. Trump is not the first president to dole out politically motivated pardons to corrupt cronies, he is by far the most prolific, and he’s just begun. Among the more than 60 pardons he has granted thus far, he had personal ties to most.

The NBC News correspondent Heidi Przybyla said it best when she tweeted: “Trump took office 4 years ago promising to prioritize the forgotten man/woman. He leaves pardoning his white collar criminal friends and war criminals.”

Andrew Malekoff
Long Beach, N.Y.

To the Editor:

One way President-elect Joe Biden could distinguish himself from President Trump is, on his first day in office, make a pronouncement that anyone in his administration who breaks the law can count on not being pardoned.

Richard Rosenthal
New York

To the Editor:

An executive, rather than a judicial, pardon befits monarchs and tyrants, not the American president. It distorts, and betrays a disdain for, our judicial processes in many ways.

If Michael Flynn or Mohammed bin Salman or Marc Rich, for that matter, has been unfairly served by the courts, he should be referred back for a second accounting. And “pre-emptive pardons”? Please.

We are about to see the pardon process become intolerably abused by the ultimate self-dealer in the White House. It will provoke individual outrage and disgust; it should incite large-scale, masked and distanced peaceful protest across the nation and comment, at least, from the Justice Department.

George H. Stewart
Yangon, Myanmar

To the Editor:

Now that President Trump has pardoned a whole group of people for lying to federal investigators, the Democrats in Congress should subpoena them and make them testify under oath about how they broke the law. Since they have been pardoned and cannot be punished for their actions, they can’t claim the protection of the Fifth Amendment.

Jay Stonehill
Sarasota, Fla.

To the Editor:

“Accountability After Trump” (editorial, Dec. 20) observes that any meaningful change to the pardon power “would require a constitutional amendment.” But there are some reforms Congress could institute that should pass constitutional muster.

For example, it could impose a 30-day notice-and-comment requirement so crime victims, prosecutors and members of the public could at least know what a president was considering doing and offer their opinions and, potentially, pertinent facts before a final decision is made. Such a notice of proposed pardon, like a notice of proposed rule-making, could be published in the Federal Register.

Congress could also require that all files relating to requested and granted pardons be made available to the public on the Justice Department’s website.

Eugene R. Fidell
New Haven, Conn.
The writer is an adjunct professor at New York University Law School.

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