Enlightening the Pardon Power

(This essay was first published in The Hill on February 20, 2020.)

Professor Bernadette Meyler

President Trump’s use of the pardon power has gone too far — even for Republicans.

Trump commuted the sentence of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, whom Trump included and then fired on “Celebrity Apprentice.” The same year, Blagojevich was found guilty of public corruption for the first time; after a retrial, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The commutation of Blagojevich’s sentence is not surprising. Since taking office, Trump has deployed the pardon power as a political tool to assist allies and express contempt for a variety of laws. By pardoning former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Trump sent the message that discriminatory tactics were permitted in immigration enforcement. Through pardoning conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, Trump brushed away campaign finance laws. And, by commuting Blagojevich’s sentence, Trump has demonstrated his disregard for public corruption, potentially setting up a self-pardon for the activities detailed in the Mueller Report.

(Continue reading the article on The Hill’s page here.)

Bernadette Meyler is professor and associate dean at Stanford Law School. She is the author of Theaters of Pardoning, published by Cornell University Press.