By Frank Bowman
Today brings news that, at the behest of that well-known legal eagle and social justice crusader, Kim Kardashian, Mr. Trump has issued a presidential commutation of the life sentence imposed on a woman convicted of drug trafficking. While the issuance of a presidential commutation to this particular prisoner seems unobjectionable on the merits — she’s 63 and has already done 20 years — the process that produced it is profoundly dispiriting. At the very same time that Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is rolling back Obama-era DOJ policies designed to reduce lengthy drug sentences for non-violent, first-time offenders, Trump picks one prisoner out of thousands … apparently because he got a personal plea from a buxom female celebrity.
One is reluctant to attribute too much cunning to any of Trump’s in-the-moment decisions, but starting to issue pardons to some folks who actually merit them by conventional standards would be a prudent precaution. I’ve argued on this blog that Trump’s emerging pattern of employing pardons almost solely for political allies or for the purpose of signalling a willingness to pardon his own associates now under scrutiny by federal law enforcement could, if continued, form a plausible constitutional basis for impeachment. Diluting the core of self-interested pardons with a stream of apparently disinterested displays of mercy would make the impeachment case much harder.