Beg your pardon?
August 29, 2019

President Trump denied Wednesday that has offered pardons to aides who break the law rushing to build his "matte black" border wall, calling a Tuesday night Washington Post report "another totally Fake story" that "was made up by The Washington Post only in order to demean and disparage." On Wednesday, The New York Times and CNN both confirmed the Post's reporting.

A White House official hadn't denied Trump's pardon offers to the Post, saying only that Trump was joking, and a senior administration official told the Times the same thing, insisting that when Trump offers pardons or asks aides to break the law, "he winks when he does it."

Trump's "signature campaign promise to build a wall along the southwestern border is far behind schedule," so "he has told his aides to get the job done by whatever means necessary, including by seizing land on the Mexican frontier," the Times reports. "The president has repeatedly suggested during meetings on immigration policy that aides 'take the land' and 'get it done,' according to a person who has heard him say it." Two sources confirmed Trump's pardon comments to CNN.

The reports aren't unbelievable. Trump "has publicly talked up the government's ability to seize land for infrastructure purposes, and he has dangled pardons before," the Times reports. In fact, the Post adds, "several of the 15 pardons that Trump has issued during his presidency — a power that is nearly unchecked and that Trump has relished — have carried with them an overtly political tone," sending "indirect signals of his willingness to help those close to him escape punishment."

Joke or not, Democrats aren't laughing. "Sadly, this is just one more instance of a president who undermines the rule of law and behaves as if he's a king and not governed by the laws of this country," Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) told the Post. "He is not a king, he is accountable," and this will factor into House impeachment deliberations. Peter Weber

May 16, 2019

President Trump pardoned Conrad Black, a 74-year-old Canadian-born British former media baron who is a longtime friend and onetime business partner, on Wednesday. In a statement, the White House suggested Black's 2007 conviction for fraud and obstruction of justice, tied to an alleged scheme to swindle millions from investors, was overly harsh. Black spent more than three years in prison, getting out in 2012, and was then deported to Canada and barred from entering the U.S. for 30 years.

The White House, justifying the pardon, cited "broad support from many high-profile individuals who have vigorously vouched for his exceptional character," naming Henry Kissinger, Rush Limbaugh, the late William F. Buckley Jr., and Elton John. The statement also noted that Black is "the author of several notable biographies," but didn't mention the glowing book Black published about Trump last year.

In the book, Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other, Black wrote that Trump is "a good deal more ethical and honest than many other businessmen and corporate directors I have known." When the book came out, Black denied speculation that he was angling for a pardon. In 2015, Trump tweeted his thanks to Black for a previous bit of praise in print: "As one of the truly great intellects & my friend, I won't forget!!"

Black once controlled Hollinger International, a media empire that owned the Chicago Sun-Times, Canada's National Post, Britain's Daily Telegraph, The Jerusalem Post, and other newspapers. Trump predicted that Black would bounce back from his legal woes in 2004. "In 1990 or 1991, when I owed billions of dollars, some people shied away from me," Trump told Vanity Fair. "And now everyone is kissing my a-- and begging me to sit at their right-hand side at the table. Conrad is a tremendously strong man who will overcome these obstacles in the end. He will prevail." And he did, with a little help from his friends. Peter Weber

August 22, 2018

Michael Cohen is a changed man who now wants only to tell the truth about President Trump, for the good of his family and his country, Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis told Samantha Guthrie on Wednesday's Today, a day after Cohen pleaded guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, lying to a bank, and campaign finance violations, some of which directly implicate Trump. Davis said prosecutors have an airtight case that Trump committed a crime, and after the second time he pitched Cohen's legal GoFundMe site, Guthrie brought up the wild card in all this.

"There's one person who could make Michael Cohen's legal problems go away in an instant," Guthrie said. "Is he hoping for a pardon from President Trump?" "Not only is he not hoping for it, he would not accept a pardon," Davis said. "He considers a pardon from somebody who has acted so corruptly as president to be something he would never accept."

You can't accept what isn't offered, of course, and Trump famously bristles at perceived disloyalty. Peter Weber

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