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Pre-Emptive Pardons?


By Carolyn Kay

Americablog reports that Bush and his chief of staff are having a pow-wow at Camp David this weekend, no doubt to discuss various strategies on how to extricate themselves from the various messes in which the administration now finds itself.

Let’s hope they’re not planning to unleash a pre-emptive strike against Syria any time soon.

I’m also afraid they might be planning a pre-emptive strike against Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel in the Plame Leak case.  Knowing how shameless Bush and his people are, and knowing how little regard they have for the law or the Constitution, I’m afraid Bush might try to PRE-EMPTIVELY PARDON EVERYONE IN HIS ADMINISTRATION before any indictments are even publicized.

The main precedent for this kind of pre-emptive pardon is Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon after Nixon left office, but before he had been indicted for any crime.

Now, please don’t bring up the fact that Bush, as presumed president-elect, said he wouldn’t consider any such blanket pardon for Bill Clinton.  He said, “Let's let him get indicted first, then I'll pardon him.”  Of course, it remains to be seen whether Bush would really have pardoned Clinton.  But hypocrisy is Bush’s middle name, and he wouldn’t insist on treating Republicans, especially those close to him, most especially if he himself is at risk, as harshly as he treats Democrats.

Bush senior pardoned his former Secretary of Defense, Caspar Weinberger, and others, before the special prosecutor could try them for crimes that could have led to charges against Bush himself.  Clinton foolishly let that go, and didn’t pursue any further investigations in the matter.  You’ll remember how much good that did him when the bloodhounds came after HIM.

But there’s a difference between those examples and the possibility I raise here: the U.S. Constitution says, in Article II, Section 2, Clause 1, “The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” (Emphasis added.)

I think we Internet strategists need to get to work right away pre-emptively thinking up how we will protest this event, should it occur.  Most especially we need some lawyers to focus on  the “except in Cases of Impeachment” phrase.  Can Bush pardon the minions who, if they testified to Congress, could bring about Bush’s own impeachment?  Would we let him get away with it?  What can we do if he tries it?  Ideas, please.

Comment at or at Daily Kos.

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Last changed: December 13, 2009