No one that has read these pages for any length of time can doubt the antipathy I have for President Trump and his hoard; I consider him to have taken us to the brink of authoritarianism, and despite current indications that his treasonous activities to undermine our democracy are losing steam, I frankly won’t breathe entirely easily until I see President-Elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr., actually take the oath of office in January. That said, despite the understandable outrage now felt by anyone with a shred of interest in justice about Mr. Trump’s recent pardon of former Trump Administration National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – and the prospect of a steady stream of pardons in the coming weeks of Trump collaborators including his wife, his children, Trump Organization executives, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone (this time a full pardon), etc., etc., etc., probably ultimately culminating in an attempt by the President to pardon himself – I would suggest that if Mr. Trump makes promiscuous use of his pardon power, he may be unwittingly assisting Mr. Biden’s attempts to tone down our current hyper-partisan atmosphere.
Given our nation’s need to uphold the rule of law, the depth of hostility that perhaps the majority of Mr. Biden’s supporters feel about Mr. Trump, and the fact that Mr. Trump obviously has no intent to retire from the world stage when he leaves the White House, I don’t see how, unless Mr. Trump makes broad untoward use of his pardon power, the Biden Administration will have any choice but to thoroughly investigate the activities of and if appropriate pursue criminal convictions against various members of the Trump cohort including Mr. Trump himself. At the same time, such activities, however justified, will carry the tinge of political persecution and require establishment Republicans to close ranks behind Mr. Trump when they are probably quietly thrilled at the prospect of seeing his outsize influence within their party gradually dissipate. Mr. Biden has pledged to try to unify our nation, and as perhaps as unlikely as that might be in a hyper-partisan environment stoked not only by Mr. Trump but an alt-right media complex whose profits are driven by broadcasting ever-more-outlandish conspiracy theories, any prosecutions of Trump principals by the Biden Administration will undoubtedly merely serve to aggravate the divisions among our citizens and cripple Mr. Biden’s attempts to effect moderate change that the majority of Americans, if they can be made to look at policy through other than a rancorous partisan lens, might support.
So if advising Mr. Biden, I would actually counsel: let’s hope Trump actually does a broad and thorough job of pardoning his entire band. Let’s hope he actually tries to pardon himself. He’s doing you a favor. The more justification your Administration has for ignoring Trump – for not letting him hold center stage – the better for your presidency and the nation. Let the natural survival instincts of establishment Republicans – some of whom harbor their own presidential ambitions, and want their party back – and Fox News – which undoubtedly realizes that the more it pumps Trump, the more it is assisting an undoubted media competitor — kick in: they want Trump to fade. After January 20, Trump will hold perhaps half of the 70 million people that voted for him for a while; and while 35 million people is far from nothing, it still only amounts to about 10% of the population – which is about the percentage of crazies we have always had with us. As Mr. Trump ages, his ardent following – demonstrably having short and easily-distracted attention spans – may well become attracted to some other shiny bauble.
A President cannot pardon those who are convicted of state and local offenses. It seems highly likely that the Attorney General of the State of New York will chase Mr. Trump. Let the then-former president be distracted by challenges not attributable to the Biden Administration as the Administration seeks to address the myriad of daunting challenges facing our nation. If nothing else, the recent election results demonstrate that the country is not as liberal as progressives proclaim, and that some of the growing demographic constituencies that Democrats have been projecting to sustain them in the future are not as monolithic as they had supposed. The Democrats’ best hope to hold the White House in 2024 is for Mr. Trump’s continued machinations to ultimately divide the Republican Party between its establishment and its crazies.