President Trump’s grants of clemency to convicted liars, corrupt congressmen and child-killing war criminals are a way to lash out at a system that he believes has treated him and his friends unfairly. — Peter Baker, The New York Times chief White House correspondent
President Trump’s grants of clemency to convicted liars, corrupt congressmen and child-killing war criminals are a way to lash out at a system that he believes has treated him and his friends unfairly. — Peter Baker, The New York Times chief White House correspondent
For a Defeated President, Pardons as an Expression of Grievance
President Trump’s grants of clemency to convicted liars, corrupt congressmen and child-killing war criminals are a way to lash out at a system that he believes has treated him and his friends unfairly.

... In the flurry of 49 pardons and commutations issued this week, he granted clemency to a host of convicted liars, crooked politicians and child-killing war criminals, but the through line was a president who considers himself a victim of law enforcement and was using his power to strike back.

Never mind that Mr. Trump presents himself as a champion of “law and order.” He has been at war with the criminal justice system, at least when it has come to himself and his friends. And so in these final days in office, he is using the one all-but-absolute power vested in the presidency to rewrite the reality of his tenure by trying to discredit investigations into him and his compatriots and even absolving others he seems to identify with because of his own encounters with the authorities.

In some ways, of course, this is the concession that Mr. Trump has otherwise refused to issue, an unspoken acknowledgment that he really did lose the Nov. 3 election. These are the kinds of clemency actions a president would take only shortly before leaving office.

But it also represents a final, angry exertion of power by a president who is losing his ability to shape events with each passing day, a statement of relevance even as Mr. Trump confronts the end of his dominance over the nation’s capital. ... As power inexorably slips from his grasp, the defeated president finds his pardon authority to be the one weapon he can deploy without any checks. It is the most kingly of powers conferred on a president by the Constitution, one that is entirely up to his discretion, requires no confirmation by Congress or the courts and cannot be overturned.