As Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency in 2016, his vow to “drain the swamp” included outrage at past use of presidential pardons. Citing the way President Bill Clinton had pardoned a fugitive financier during his last week in office, Trump fumed, “People couldn’t believe it.”
Yet now, in the closing days of his term, Trump has added to his portfolio of pardons and commutations several people who seemed to exemplify the very swamp that Trump said he would drain, including former political allies as well as three former members of the House of Representatives.
Trump pardoned former congressmen Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), who pleaded guilty to misuse of campaign funds, and Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who was in prison after being convicted of securities fraud. The president commuted the sentence of former congressman Steve Stockman (R-Tex.), who was convicted of misusing charitable contributions. Hunter and Collins were early and avid supporters of Trump’s campaign.
“Other presidents have occasionally issued abusive, self-serving pardons based on insider connections,” Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith, who has tracked Trump’s pardons and commutations, said via email. “Almost all of Trump’s pardons fit that pattern. What other presidents did exceptionally, Trump does as a matter of course.” [Continue reading…]