Nixon Precedent Could Avoid Hard Choices For President Elect as Obama mulls Hillary Clinton pardonWASHINGTON, D.C. (November 10, 2016) – Many pundits and media outlets are suggesting that President Barack Obama is seriously considering issuing a pardon to Hillary Clinton to avoid further divisiveness, and to prevent the Democratic scandal likely to occur if a special prosecutor is appointed to investigate her private email server, the Clinton Foundation, and other allegedly suspicious activities.
But largely overlooked is the completely separate argument that such a pardon might also greatly benefit Donald Trump; an argument raised by public interest law professor John Banzhaf this morning in his appearance on Breitbart radio.
Banzhaf played a major legal role in the Watergate controversy which led President Gerald Ford in 1974 to grant to Richard Nixon a “full, free, and absolute pardon” “for all offenses against the United States” without naming the offenses. It was granted, in Ford’s words, in order to prevent further “prolonged and divisive debate.”
Interestingly, the talk show host, Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow, a very strong supporter of Trump, appeared to agree that such a pardon would benefit Trump.
During the very contentious campaign, Trump repeatedly opined that Clinton was guilty of various crimes, and should be in jail (actually prison). Indeed, Trump pledged that, were he to become president, he would “instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your (missing email) situation.” When Clinton briefly responded, Trump shot back: “Because you’d be in jail.”
But whether much of that was largely bloated campaign rhetoric, or represented Trump’s deeply held beliefs, it seems clear that a lengthy criminal investigation of Clinton – with a possibility, if not a probability under Trump, of an indictment and trial – would be contrary to the joint commitments by Obama, Clinton, and Trump that they are all hoping to unite a badly divided country by healing its wounds.
Trump and his advisers obviously understand that investigating and possibly indicting Clinton could be very divisive to an already shocked country, almost to the point of tearing it apart and provoking even more demonstrations. On the other hand, backing off might be seen by many of his followers as a sign of weakness, and a clear violation of his repeated pledge to investigate her with a special prosecutor.
But, if Obama were to pardon Clinton, it would provide an easy out from a very difficult choice by Trump. He could avoid the trauma of a criminal investigation without backing down by simply explaining to his followers that any such investigation is legally impossible given the Obama pardon.
Interestingly enough, Marlow, although a devout and very effective spokesperson for the right, and a very strong and loyal supporter of Trump, seemed to agree, noting that Trump would now – after the election is over – have nothing politically to gain from a Clinton investigation and likely indictment, no matter how he might feel personally.
Avoiding unnecessary controversy might make it easier for Trump to push ahead in other much more important areas with squandering political capital in an area with little real benefit for him, says Banzhaf . The Breitbart program – from approximately 7:30-7:55 AM, will be posted on the Internet shortly.