About Those Pardons

As we’re all slumping back in our chairs and resigning ourselves to an infinitely dumber version of another Obama term, it is worth reminding each other of the wins Trump delivered these last 4 years. Working in concert with Cocaine Kingpin, Mitch McConnell, in the senate and some very savvy and focused legal advisors (Leonard Leo and Don McGhan), the administration reshaped the federal courts for a decade or two to come. That's good news and something we should remain grateful for in the years to come.

Trump also had a magical ability to get the corporate press and legal community to rip off their masks and expose the inner lunatic that had been wearing the skin of a serious, thoughtful professional for so many years. There were big wins on foreign policy, no new wars or conflicts, and a recalibration of the Republican party into one that is more focused on the working class while expanding support among many groups the pundit class thought the Democrats had a lock on. Combine this with the never-ending trolling from a President - who was not afraid to get combative with an openly hostile press - and you had the greatest political show on earth for half a decade.

But as good as the show was, sadly the series finale didn’t deliver. Even after some PR/messaging missteps in the COVID response, the “Stop the Steal” debacle, the $2k relief checks debate that cost Republicans control of the Senate, and even the world’s first MAGA riot that erupted and flowed into the halls of the Capitol to the silent delight and feigned outrage of journos from DC to NYC, we were hoping for one last reason to stand and applaud the President from the mandatory quarantine location of our respective living room(s). Most of us in the very online army were focusing our hopes on a pardon for Julian Assange and, some of us, also for Edward Snowden. The libertarian wing was eyeing a pardon for Silk Road founder Ross William Ulbricht (Google him and his case), and pretty much everyone was united for the long shot possibility of a Presidential pardon for Joe Exotic, aka Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, because the world demands another season of Tiger King. After a relentless 4 year campaign of spying, sabotage, and interference by the deep state and career bureaucrats in the intel and federal law enforcement communities, Trump had a GOLDEN opportunity to shove both his thumbs in their eyes and pardon one or two of their biggest targets. Instead he pardoned Steve Bannon a man charged with (essentially) defrauding Trump supporters, the corrupt former mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick (based on support from *giggle* Diamond and Silk), Lil’ Wayne, Kodak Black, and Brian Urlacher's younger brother, among 140 others.

There are many good people who have spent the better part of 10 years lobbying for a pardon for Assange, and their best hope for one ultimately centered on what is undoubtedly the most unlikely man anyone could have predicted, and it still didn’t come to pass. Reports are that senate republicans and some other advisors had told Trump if he moved forward with the Assange and/or Snowden pardon, he would almost certainly be impeached. The Trump we knew would have dared them to follow through on their threats but perhaps coming off a string of back-to-back PR disasters caused him to relent. Personally, I think an Assange pardon, in addition to being the right thing to do, would have been a huge win that crosses party lines and also could have taken some of the sting off of these last few weeks. Nothing would make me happier than watching the corporate press unite in their opposition to what many consider to be the ultimate act and purpose of journalism, holding the powerful to account and pulling back the curtain on government abuses. Bill Clinton’s “pardongate” of 2001 saw the former President issue pardons to actual terrorists (FALN) and corrupt friends/donors to the point that Congress condemned his actions while the press did what it could to cover for their guy. With just one pardon, Trump had the opportunity to uppercut both the intel apparatus and the press that had spent so much of his time in office lying and attacking him and his family, and free a political prisoner who had not spent years setting off bombs in this country or committing fraud to help fund his campaign.

In the end it would seem the ruling class, who had been so battered and bruised in the years since November 2016, were able to claim one last victory at the 11th hour of the Trump presidency. And while the last four years has been an amazing and surprisingly emotional ride, we didn’t get the finale we had hoped for and deserved.