Former Attorney General Eric Holder is sure there is a motive behind the recent pardons granted by President Trump, and it has something to do with Robert Mueller.
Just one day after Trump pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who was federally prosecuted when Holder was attorney general under former President Obama, Holder questioned Trump’s motives and judgement.
“If you pardon somebody, all right, that means that they don’t have much to worry about with regard to whatever the pardon covers,” Holder said at a “Politics and Eggs” event in New Hampshire on Friday, considered a must-stop for presidential candidates, The Washington Post reported.
“But if Bob Mueller, for instance, wants to take a pardoned person, put that person before a grand jury, that person no longer has the ability to say, I’m going to invoke my Fifth Amendment right. That’s been stripped away… And that person then becomes a perfect witness for the special counsel,” he continued.
Holder, a Democrat who told the audience that he is considering a 2020 bid for president, thinks Trump is trying to “send a message” to potential witnesses in Mueller’s investigation of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump could be letting those witnesses know that he has the power to pardon them.
But Holder does not believe the strategy will have an influence on Mueller’s probe.
“And so it might have a positive impact on the person who received the pardon, but it will not ultimately thwart the Mueller investigation,” he said.
Trump issued a full pardon to D’Souza who pleaded guilty to making an illegal campaign contribution to a New York Republican Senate candidate in 2012. The author, speaker, and filmmaker was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to five years of probation. D’Souza claimed last year that he was targeted for “political” reasons by the Obama administration after the release of his film “2016: Obama’s America.”
The president also indicated that he was considering clemency for other celebrity felons including former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich – a Democrat – and Martha Stewart.
D’Souza was not someone worthy of a pardon in Holder’s estimation, as was former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz. Joe Arpaio, who was held in criminal contempt for disobeying a judge’s order in an immigration case.
“If you use all the typical metrics that we use in the Justice Department . . . very few of these people you’d consider good candidates for pardons,” Holder said.
“I’m a little concerned about what’s going on now,” he added, noting that presidents have an “absolute” power to pardon but the country has “a history of, you know, not-great pardons.”
Democratic campaign consultant Doug Schoen echoed Holder’s sentiments, saying he believes Trump’s pardons are meant to send a “very loud message” to those in the Mueller probe.
“First it sends a very loud message to people who are under the gun in the Mueller investigation currently going on that the president has an unqualified and absolute pardon power,” Schoen told Fox News’ Heather Childers on “America’s Newsroom” on Friday.
“In terms of Rod Blagojevich, who I knew and worked for, I think he did commit crimes. He has acknowledged it. And frankly, a commutation I think is in order,” Schoen added. “Dinesh is a friend of mine pled guilty. I’m glad he will have his voice back.”
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