March 31, 2018

The AM Joy panel discussed the history of the presidential pardon, starting with Richard Nixon's pardon by President Gerald Ford.

"There's really no evidence that they had an agreement," Paul Butler said. "Of course President Ford suffered in the election. He was not re-elected in large part because he had pardoned the president. "

"Absolutely. Same question similar to you, Joe Conason," Reid said. "You're a scholar of the Clinton era. Was there ever a consideration in the Clinton White House of using pardons to extricate himself from the sort of Whitewater-to-Monica Lewinsky situation?"

"I don't believe there is any evidence that he thought of misusing pardons that way," Conason said.

"It's important to remember Clinton was pursued for years after he left the White House by the Justice Department under President Bush for the pardons he issued to Mark Rich and Pincus Green, which were suspected of being corrupt. There was never any proof they were.

"I happen not to believe that they were, but there was certainly a strong sense that he had done something wrong. Jim Comey, who was then the U.S. Attorney in the southern district of New York, spent years investigating those pardons on the basis that they there had supposedly donations made to the Clinton Foundation for the pardons of Mark Rich. I believe Clinton did that for other reasons that had to do with Mideast diplomacy. But certainly at the time he was -- the theory was, and it was articulated by a senator at the time named Jefferson Sessions, that the president upon leaving office could be prosecuted for the corrupt misuse of pardons.

"I think there's a strong likelihood, he (Trump), too, could be prosecuted after leaving the White House. People don't -- there's disagreement among scholars as to whether a president can be indicted while sitting. But once he leaves office, there's no question he would be legally vulnerable for any such actions," Conason said.

"I'll throw that to you, Paul, the list of people -- MIke Flynn, Paul Manafort, Bill Gates -- that have been pointed out, all these options of people who could be pardoned. What do you make of this question of whether or not Trump himself could be indicted?" Reid asked.

"I don't think Trump could be indicted while in office," Taylor said. "Not only does the Constitution make that an open question, Justice Department regulations say that a sitting president can't be indicted. "

Would Jeff Sessions change that? Ha, ha!

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