February 19, 2020

John Avlon's Reality Check segment takes on the latest Trump pardons, and what they mean.

"So you remember when Republicans said that Donald Trump really cared about corruption? That was fun. And also complete nonsense. Because the president just used his pardoning power to commute the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who, in case you forgot, was convicted of trying to sell Barack Obama's senate seat.

BLAGOJEVICH: I've got this thing, and it's [ bleep ] golden. And I'm just not giving it up for [ bleep ] nothing.

"Trump suggested this call was nothing out of the ordinary for politicians. But Blago was charged with a variety of corruption charges including holding $8 million in funds to a state children's hospital in hopes of getting a $50,000 campaign contribution. He was impeached before being sentenced to 14 years in prison. GOP lawmakers from Illinois warned Trump not to do this. The Illinois House Republican leader said this yesterday:

I saw a governor who was rogue on steroids. He was a person that was not -- didn't care about the state of Illinois. He cared about his own ambition. Why should he get special treatment? I think it's wrong and it sends a bad message to people in this country.

"But hey, he was a contestant on The Apprentice. And his wife appeared on Fox News asking for a pardon, which is apparently how things are done in the Trump era. After all, the same day, he pardoned former NYC police commissioner and frequent Fox News guest Bernard Kerik, who was sentenced in a corruption case for tax fraud and lying on White House forms. And then there was top political officer for Bush 43, Dennis Afabian, who was convicted of bribery in the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal. And former 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. who failed to report a felony after paying $400,000 to Lousiana Gov. Edwin Edwards for a riverboat gambling license.

"To this list can be added the past pardons of political allies like Dinesh D'Souza, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

"It's notable that most of Trump's brands of clemency have gone to well-connected offenders who had not filed petitions with the pardon office or did not meet its requirements, according to an analysis by the Washington Post.

"So to recap, the crimes that Trump pardoned include corruption, obstruction of justice, perjury, tax fraud, wire fraud and bribery. These are many of the same offenses that Trump associates are accused of committing. And not for nothing, President Trump has preemptively declared an absolute right to pardon himself but we'll just have to take Trump at his word that he hasn't thought about pardoning Roger Stone.

Avlon reminded viewers of Founder George Mason's concerns that 'a president may frequently pardon crimes which were advised by himself. It may happen at some future day that will establish a monarchy and destroy the republic.'

"While the federal judges association has called an emergency meeting to discuss interventions in sensitively political cases including Roger Stone. Make no mistake: We're watching the president abuse his pardoning powers and laying the groundwork for the pardoning of more political cronies by defining deviancy down.

"This is the opposite of draining the swamp. it's simply restocking. And that's your reality check."

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