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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, critical of President Donald Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence, is pushing for a new law that would restrict future president pardon power under certain conditions.
In an interview with CNN, Pelosi, a California Democrat, called the president’s then-reported decision to commute the sentence of his long-time friend “appalling,” adding that “there oughta be a law” that prohibits such pardons.
Host Anderson Cooper said that although “the president continues to brand himself … a law and order president — though what that definition for him is frankly unclear — he would be going against the Justice Department’s wishes here if he did this, to say nothing of the jury and the federal judge. What do you think of that idea?”
“I think it’s a terrible idea,” Pelosi began. “Just look at this administration, the president and his henchmen. So many of his friends, advisers, campaign chairmen, etcetera, are in jail.
“And for the president to be able to issue a pardon on the basis of a crime that the person committed assisting the president is ridiculous and we have to…there oughta be a law, and I’m recommending that we pass a law that presidents cannot issue a pardon if the crime that the person is in jail for is one that is caused by protecting the president, which this was,” she said, unchallenged by Cooper.
There are multiple issues and falsehoods regarding Pelosi’s comments.
First and foremost, Article II, Sect. 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants presidents nearly unlimited authority to “grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States,” with the only exception being in cases of impeachment.
So, no legislation that Congress passes to limit that authority would likely pass constitutional muster. The only way to alter a president’s pardon authority would be via constitutional amendment ratified by three-fourths of the states.
As for Pelosi’s assertions regarding Stone’s conviction:
— The lead juror in his case, one-time Tennessee Democrat congressional candidate Tomeka Hart, posted disparaging and biased remarks about President Trump to social media, which legal and constitutional experts said should have disqualified her from being on the jury, let alone its forewoman.
— One of those experts, Georgetown Law Prof. Jonathan Turley, believed in light of Hart’s remarks, that Stone’s conviction should have been “reevaluated.” “She was Juror No. 1261, and her examination by the federal court and counsel before the trial was anything but notable. And that is precisely the problem,” he wrote in a February op-ed.
— Former Judge Andrew Napolitano said that if Hart intentionally hid her bias from lawyers and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, she could be charged herself. “The purpose of the interrogation is to weed out people that have a bias prejudice, knowledge of the case or interest in the outcome,” he explained. “She obviously had a prejudice against Roger Stone — a bias in favor of his prosecution and an interest in seeing him convicted that should automatically disqualify her.”
— Under normal circumstances, revelations about a tainted juror/foreperson would have triggered a retrial, but that didn’t happen, despite Stone requesting one.
— Federal prosecutors recommended an unusually long nine-year prison term for Stone, which the Justice Department refuted, leading four federal prosecutors to withdraw from the case.
— Jackson also denied Stone’s request she withdraw from the case after she commented during his Feb. 20th sentencing hearing that “the jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances cared.” Her comments came after Hart’s posts were discovered.
— There is no evidence that Stone’s crimes were committed on behalf of the president.
Regarding the president’s ‘jailed’ associates:
— One-time 2016 campaign manager Paul Manafort was arrested, tried, and convicted on unrelated alleged ‘crimes’ involving dealings with Ukraine that reached all the way up to then-President Obama and then-Vice President Biden, but no charges were filed against him then.
— Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was also convicted of unrelated financial crimes. Both he and Manafort were never in any legal trouble until Robert Mueller was appointed as special counsel.
— Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn did indeed plead guilty to one count of lying to the FBI, but he did so to protect his son from Mueller. He sought to recant his guilty plea in January; since then, documents have been uncovered and released indicating that then-FBI Director James Comey, with Obama’s blessing, set Flynn up in a perjury trap. Flynn is a free man after a federal appeals court ordered a lower court to accept the Justice Department’s decision to drop its case against him.