So endeth the Trump presidency, not with a bang but a long and predictably hilarious list of pardons and commutations. There’s 143 in total. It’s a last, parting gift for those of us who, in our sinfulness, have always regarded the rule of Trump as a sort of divine cosmic joke.
The headline pardon is for Steve Bannon, his former chief strategist, who has been charged in connection with a scheme to launder funds from a crowdfunding campaign to ‘build the wall’ between America and Mexico. Trump reportedly dithered over whether to show clemency to Bannon. Publicly, the two men were not meant to have reconciled after falling out as Bannon left the administration in August 2017. Privately, it’s understood that Bannon has always had ‘lines into’ Trump and even helped indirectly in the 2020 presidential campaign.
Other pardon highlights include two rappers: Lil Wayne, who has pleaded guilty to a federal gun charge and met the President in October and Kodak Black, who has been charged with making a false statement on a federal document. The White House press release carefully explained that Black’s pardon ‘is supported by…Gucci Mane, Lil Pump, Lil Yachty, Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens… and numerous other community leaders’. Ever the family man, Trump also also pardoned his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s close friend Kenneth Kurson, who in October was charged with cyberstalking and harassment.
In another deliciously swampy stroke of his pen, the outgoing Commander-in-Chief has also revoked his own Executive Order 13770, which banned branch executive branch officials from becoming lobbyists within five years. Go forth and prosper, ye loyal servants of democracy.
There’ll be much wailing and gnashing of NeverTrump teeth. But Trump’s pardons actually do us all a favor. Through his absurd and blatant venality, he has once again revealed the smelly little hypocrisies of the imperial presidency. Presidential pardons have long been a grubby business — just look at Bill Clinton’s monstrous clemencies as he left office (Remember Marc Rich?). It’s a useful reminder that executive power without legislative checks inevitably turns into a sordid betrayal the public’s trust. Or as Lil Wayne put it in his seminal work, ‘Pure Colombia’, ‘You think you’re calling shots, you got the wrong number. I love Benjamin Franklin more than his own mother.’
This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.