A couple of weeks ago, #43 took the unprecedented step of revoking a Presidential pardon.
To my knowledge, that had never been done before (which is why I used the word “unprecedented”, actually). And it seemed to be over such a minor issue – a developer convicted of mail fraud and tax evasion. And #43’s mouthpiece claimed that the administration didn’t want to “create the appearance of an impropriety”.
So outing an undercover CIA agent and lying to the grand jury so badly that it interfered with the investigation into whether or not there was a cover-up is OK, but pardoning a minor crony because he donated money to the campaign is out of bounds?
It just didn’t make sense to me at the time.
But people argued back and forth about whether or not a president can actually revoke a pardon. Some said yes, it’s inherent in the ability to grant them in the first place. Others said no, once it was issued you can’t take it back. Josh Marshall had a great round-up of the debate.
The argument for revoking seemed to be based on the difference in time between when the president signs the form issuing the pardon, and when the lawyers at the Department of Justice actually execute the pardons.
The argument against was that, if #43’s (or, more likely, the legal weasels on his administration) theory was correct, it would insert an extra-Constitutional department into the Executive Branch’s Constitutional power. Ain’t no DOJ in the founding documents.
I guess, because I didn’t hear any more about it, that people decided it was OK. I could be wrong, and the opposition just might be under the radar or moving slowly, as justice often does.
And then, as the final hours of #43’s term ticked down, folks were waiting for the midnight pardons – the last-minute ones, the ones that would hopefully slide by in the dead of night. I particularly expected #43 to issue a blanket pardon for himself and his top aides.
It appears that that didn’t happen. Some border guards got their sentences commuted, but that’s it. No other pardons. Which means, I lose a bet and now owe someone twenty bucks. I was so sure.
Again… that just seems weird.
But Josh Marshall made a point: if #43 thinks that pardons can be revoked, maybe he thinks (or, more likely, the legal brains in his administration) that if he issues a late pardon, that Obama could then revoke it as long as the Justice Department hasn’t “executed” it yet.
I kinda wish Obama would do that, actually. But it wouldn’t fit in with his “unity” and “bipartisanship” themes. More’s the pity.
But then I got to thinking. Republicans play the long game. They don’t always have an eye on the immediate consequences of things; they pay attention to how things will play in the future. If, in fact, Obama allows #43’s new power of revocation to stand… surely the Republicans plan to use this power against any future outgoing Democratic presidents.
Watch out, President Obama! No, seriously – pay attention! Or, more specifically, please please please, Attorney General-designate Holder, don’t let #43 get away with this last, slimy trick.
…or if you’re going to allow him to get away with it, could you actually make use of this new power to make sure that justice is done?