The Media’s Past Indifference to Trump’s Past Abuse of Pardons Invites Him To Do It Again

It took former Reagan and Poppy appointee Wayne Beyer to raise the subject of pardons as the very first question at CNN’s Town Hall on Wednesday.

[Wayne] BEYER: My question to you is: will you pardon the January 6th rioters who were convicted of federal offenses?

TRUMP: I am inclined to pardon many of them. I can’t say for every single one because a couple of them, probably, they got out of control.

But, you know, when you look at Antifa, what they’ve done to Portland, and if you look at Antifa, look at what they’ve done to Minneapolis and so many other – so many other places, look at what they did to Seattle. And BLM – BLM, many people were killed.

These people – I’m not trying to justify anything, but you have two standards of justice in this country, and what they’ve done – and I love that question because what they’ve done to see many people is nothing – nothing. And then what they’ve done to these people, they’ve persecuted these people.

And yeah, my answer is I am most likely – if I get in, I will most likely – I would say it will be a large portion of them. You know, they did a very –

And it’ll be very early on. And they’re living in hell right now.

Given his legal focus on police misconduct and sometime membership in a GOP lawyers association, Beyer may have been teeing Trump up to promise to pardon the men and women who attacked the Capitol on January 6 and might have assassinated Mike Pence. Given his background, this feels like a scripted question, designed to provide Trump an opportunity to promise those facing prosecution (including some lawyers!) to remain loyal to Trump.

In response, Kaitlin Collins attempted to point out Trump’s hypocrisy by raising one of the several cops and former cops who rioted on January 6, to say nothing of the former and active duty service men and women who participated in the attack (she was probably alluding to Thomas Webster, the most celebrated of the former cops charged with assaults, but he is not the only one). That only teed up another opportunity for Trump to undermine the rule of law in the US.

COLLINS: So when it comes to pardons –

TRUMP: They’re living in hell, and they’re policemen, and they’re firemen, and they’re soldiers, and they’re carpenters and electricians and they’re great people. Many of them are just great people.

COLLINS: Mr. President, one of the people who was convicted was a former policeman but he was convicted of attacking a police officer, I should note.

But when you said you are considering pardoning a large portion of those charged with crimes on January 6th, does that include the four Proud Boys members who were charged and convicted of seditious conspiracy?

TRUMP: I don’t know. I’ll have to look at their case, but I will say in Washington, D.C., you cannot get a fair trial, you cannot. Just like in New York City, you can’t get a fair trial either.

Collins made no mention — none — about Trump’s past pardons. She let one of the most unprecedented abuses committed during Trump’s first term, his pardons for those who lied to protect him, go unmentioned even when discussing a topic directly on point.

She’s not alone in her silence. Six months after Trump announced he was running, I’m aware of no deep dive on Trump’s abuse of the pardon power in his first term, not even the pardons that were — as a mass pardon of January 6 convicts would be — pardons of criminals whose crimes served his own power.

Take Paul Manafort. Whatever you imagine the Mueller Report says, whether or not you’ve read the far more damning Senate Intelligence Committee Report, it is a fact that Trump pardoned his way out of legal trouble with Manafort.

After entering into a plea deal in September 2018 that averted a damaging trial during the 2018 pre-election period, Manafort immediately changed his testimony on several key subjects. Judge Amy Berman Jackson ultimately ruled that his changed testimony amounted to lies that breached his plea agreement. She ruled that Manafort lied about three topics, one of which was what happened during an August 2, 2016 meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik at which:

  • Manafort explained how the campaign planned to win the swing states where Trump would eventually win the election
  • Kilimnik discussed how Manafort could get millions in payments from his Ukrainian paymasters and $19 million in disputed funds forgiven with Oleg Deripaska
  • Kilimnik recruited Manafort’s involvement in a plan to carve up Ukraine very similar to the plan Russia pursued until they invaded last February

Had Manafort not entered the plea deal he abrogated within hours, weeks of pre-election coverage would have focused on Manafort’s FARA trial, the proof that Manafort had worked for pro-Russian Ukrainians and then lied to cover it up. Such a trial might have led to even greater Republicans losses in the November 2018 elections.

On the other hand, had Manafort cooperated in good faith, Mueller would have had three witnesses to the meeting, days after the conventions, where Manafort took steps — either wittingly or unwittingly — that provided someone who played a key role in the Russian interference operation with inside information about the Trump campaign.

Instead, Manafort forestalled the trial and undermined any value that his damning testimony (including that Roger Stone had pre-knowledge that WikiLeaks would release John Podesta emails) would have.

And after Manafort lied to cover up what really happened at that meeting and thereby faced a stiffer sentence, Trump pardoned his former campaign manager. In the process, Trump — who has bitched about the cost of the Mueller investigation — reversed the forfeitures that would have contributed to the expense of investigating Manafort’s crimes.

Intelligence judgments since make the meeting even more damning. In June 2020, the FBI offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to Kilimnik’s arrest. The Senate Intelligence Committee Report included two redacted sections (one, two) describing evidence that Kilimnik may have been more closely tied the hack-and-leak activities.

An April 2021 sanctions report stated as fact that Kilimnik had shared campaign information with Russian intelligence.

Konstantin Kilimnik (Kilimnik) is a Russian and Ukrainian political consultant and known Russian Intelligence Services agent implementing influence operations on their behalf. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, Kilimnik provided the Russian Intelligence Services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy. Additionally, Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In 2018, Kilimnik was indicted on charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice regarding unregistered lobbying work. Kilimnik has also sought to assist designated former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. At Yanukovych’s direction, Kilimnik sought to institute a plan that would return Yanukovych to power in Ukraine.

Kilimnik was designated pursuant to E.O. 13848 for having engaged in foreign interference in the U.S. 2020 presidential election. [my emphasis]

The declassified intelligence report on the 2020 election (which was declassified in March 2021 but completed in classified form on January 7, 2021, before Trump left office) described that Kilimnik continued to interfere in US elections in 2020.

A network of Ukraine-linked individuals— including Russian influence agent Konstantin Kilimnik—who were also connected to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) took steps throughout the election cycle to damage US ties to Ukraine, denigrate President Biden and his candidacy, and benefit former President Trump’s prospects for reelection. We assess this network also sought to discredit the Obama administration by emphasizing accusations of corruption by US officials, and to falsely blame Ukraine for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.

Derkach, Kilimnik, and their associates sought to use prominent US persons and media conduits to launder their narratives to US officials and audiences. These Russian proxies met with and provided materials to Trump administration-linked US persons to advocate for formal investigations; hired a US firm to petition US officials; and attempted to make contact with several senior US officials. They also made contact with established US media figures and helped produce a documentary that aired on a US television network in late January 2020.

In other words, the tie to Kilimnik ended up being far more damaging than imagined at the time of the Mueller Report, but by the time voters learned it, Trump had already bought Manafort’s silence with a pardon, one that because it reversed the forfeiture, ended up being worth millions to Trump’s former Campaign Manager.

Though the evidence is sketchier, Trump may have pardoned his way out of even worse Russian trouble with Roger Stone. A jury found that Trump’s rat-fucker lied to cover up the true means by which he learned that WikiLeaks would release files from John Podesta (Manafort and Gates both testified that he did get advance knowledge). As Stone was about to report to prison, Stone did a series of appearances where he specified the number of calls Stone had with Trump during 2016 that (Stone claimed, unreliably) prosecutors had asked him about, a list of calls that may have come from a notebook of such contacts prosecutors hoped to find in the search of Stone’s properties. And amid Stone’s claims to have refused to tell prosecutors about the substance of dozens of contacts he had with Trump during 2016, Trump first commuted Stone’s sentence and then — the same day as Manafort — pardoned him.

Importantly, within days of getting that full pardon, Stone met with Trump to thank him for that pardon. At what was likely the same meeting, they talked about January 6, including Trump speaking; the meeting immediately preceded the White House’s shift on making that speech happen. Prosecutors have tied a January 3 appearance Stone did with the Proud Boys with efforts some of those Proud Boys made days later to prevent the vote certification.

Which leads to the most remarkable unremarked pardon of one of Trump’s co-conspirators, that of Steve Bannon.

Bannon did not get pardoned, directly, for lying to cover up what went on in 2016 (indeed, Bannon’s testimony helped to convict Stone).

Rather, as one of his last acts as President, Trump pardoned Bannon for defrauding Trump voters, to the tune of millions, using Trump’s image to do that.

Several of Bannon’s victims testified about believing they were investing in Trump’s wall at his co-conspirator Timothy Shea’s trial. Public school teacher Nicole Keller described investing because border security was so important to her late border patrol agent spouse.

Q. Why did you decide to donate to We Build the Wall? A. My late husband was a border patrol agent. We lived at the southern border in the Rio Grand Valley from 1998 through fall of 2007. Border security is something that is very — was very important to him. He dedicated his career to it. At that point in time, I was a teacher at the southern border. I taught sixth grade and high school science. And we believed that the southern border should be secure, just like the door to our house. It’s not that we’re trying to keep people out; it’s just making sure when someone comes in to our home or residence, we know who they are and what business that they might have at our house.

William Ward, a veteran and retired Washington State Medicare fraud administrator, described contributing because he didn’t believe Congress was doing enough to build Trump’s wall.

Q. Why did you decide to make that donation to We Build the Wall?

A. It was symbolic on my part more than anything else, that I thought if there were a whole lot of people that donated that way, that it might draw some attention to what I think is a difficulty along our Southern Border.

Q. Why do you think there’s a difficulty along the Southern Border? Explain what you mean by that, please.

A. Well, it’s a personal view, but I’m not sure that Congress has done what they should in passing laws that have sort of gotten out of date with the truth on the ground now, for a couple of decades, and that I think that’s where it should start. It should be a congressional thing.

Both described feeling cheated when they discovered their donations were being misused. Keller:

Q. Did there come a time when you became concerned that We Build the Wall wasn’t using donors’ money properly?

A. There did, yes.

Q. Why did you become concerned about that?

A. Again, it was something that was being talked about on news websites.

Q. And when you saw news that caused you concern, what, if anything, did you do about it?

A. I went to the GoFundMe website and tried to get my money back. Mr. Kolfage had implied that if I did not — if the monies were not used as they could be, that we would get our money back.

Q. Were you able to get your money back?

A. I was not, no.

Q. Why did you want your money back?

A. I was insulted that somebody had taken what should be a position of honor and valor, being injured for their country, and, instead, used it to defraud me.

And Ward:

Q. Did there come a time when you became concerned that We Build the Wall wasn’t using donated money in the right way?

A. Yes, there was.

Q. Why did you become concerned about that?

A. The — again, going through a news feed at breakfast every morning, I saw something that there was an investigation of misuse of the funds.

Q. When you saw that, what, if anything, did you do?

A. I got a hold of the GoFundMe page to see if I could recover my donation.

Q. Were you able to get your donation back?

A. No, I was not.

Q. Why did you want your money back?

A. I just felt I’d been cheated.

A restitution filing ordered the defendants to pay over $25 million to their victims.

Bannon cheated people who believed in Trump and his goddamn wall. And Trump pardoned him for it. And Kaitlan Collins didn’t think it worth mentioning to an audience of potential Trump supporters.

Trump obviously didn’t find the charges themselves faulty; he didn’t pardon Bannon’s co-conspirators. They were just sentenced — to three to four-plus years in prison — for the fraud they perpetrated against Trump supporters. And while Dustin Stockton’s testimony to the January 6 Committee has proven unreliable, he and Jennifer Lawrence claimed they were floated pardons in conjunction with their involvement with planning January 6.

The full story of why Trump pardoned Bannon in one of his last acts as President has not been — may never be — told. But there’s no way to regard a pardon for defrauding Trump supporters outside the context of Bannon’s involvement in Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. And, particularly given the absence of any defect in the charges themselves — given that Trump didn’t pardon all the Build the Wall fraudsters — it’s impossible to understand Bannon’s pardon as anything but payback.

And yet, when Kaitlin Collins talked about how horrible it would be if Trump started pardoning everyone else who helped Trump attack Congress, she treated as if it would be an unprecedented abuse. She did so even though she made that tie herself in breaking the story of the Bannon pardon.

Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.


Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.

One concern that had stalled debate over the pardon was Bannon’s possible connection to the riot of Trump supporters at the US Capitol earlier this month, a source familiar with the discussions told CNN.

“All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,” Bannon promised listeners of his podcast – “War Room” – on January 5, the day before the deadly siege on the Capitol.


While some advisers believed it was decided last weekend that Bannon was not getting a pardon, Trump continued to raise it into Tuesday night. Throughout the day, Trump had continued to contemplate pardons that aides believed were settled, including for his former strategist – something he continued to go back and forth on into Tuesday night, sources told CNN.

Ultimately, Trump sided with Bannon.

It would be the exact same thing Trump did in the wake of the November 2020 election, at a time he thought he would face no consequences for such an abuse of the pardon power.

Trump waited to pardon those who had protected him until after voters weighed in. He waited, because he knew that making these pardons before an election would harm his chances of getting elected.

And yet no one — not even Collins, when discussing pardons in the direct context of the next election — could be bothered to mention how abusive were Trump’s past pardons.

Of course Trump will pardon January 6 criminals if he wins in 2024, Kaitlan! Why wouldn’t he?!?! You let him blather on for an hour, even discussed future pardons with him, with not a single mention of his past abuses.

75 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    And let’s not forget that Trump had an AG who knew quite well how to issue . . . what’s the word? . . . difficult pardons.

    Yes, Bill Barr left the Trump administration right before Christmas 2020 and not on January 20, 2021, but I can’t help but think that this Master of the On-the-Way-Out-the-Door Pardons weighed in on potential pardons prior to cleaning out his desk. “Don’t pardon Bannon (or others) before the election — wait until afterwards” would be the bare minimum advice he would have given.

    Just as he did for Poppy Bush and the Iran-Contra pardons, I would bet that Barr advised Trump on who he needed to pardon to keep his own tail out of trouble, and who he should be very careful about pardoning. (Not that Trump would have blindly followed his advice, mind you, but Barr’s advice would have been given.)

  2. GSSH-FullyReduced says:

    Pardon Power, not really discussed much before this CNN TownHall toilet event.
    Thank you MW for clarifying the damage done and potential damage it may do.
    Interestingly, there’s little or no mention made of this subject in Lawfare’s recent J6 grand synopsis:

    I also note no mention of EW contributions to the analytical efforts and wonder if there’s a history of productive crosstalk between LF and EW.

    Anyway, just trying to render the complexities of law & politics into a digestible package knowing my bandwidth is very limited.

  3. greenbird says:

    i don’t know … sometimes it seems ol’ Russia has us by the short hairs.
    sometimes it seems we have them. it can’t be smarter fighting, can it ?

  4. Surfer2099 says:

    the media has never learned the first lesson regarding how to deal with trolls like Donald Trump.

    Rule 1: Don’t Feed The Trolls

    E Jean Carroll needs to sue CNN for $500M, especially given the recent judgement against Fox. CNN KNEW this asshole was gonna lie for the entire hour. CNN putting Trump on is nothing short of a blatant disregard people’s reputations and the truth. For shit’s sake, Fox just dished out $787M for allowing lies out onto the airwaves that defamed Dominion and will be dishing out more for Smartmatic.

    Anyone that allows Trump onto their airwaves should be sued when he lies about them as he’s gonna do,.

    • bmaz says:

      “E Jean Carroll needs to sue CNN for $500M, especially given the recent judgement against Fox.”

      I don’t know if I have ever seen a more stupid comment in all my years here. JFC, defamation law is NEVER going to be your political savior. This is so wrong, I may have to go have a margarita. People seriously need to step back and get a grip.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        You might be right in this particular case, but I’d like to see a lot more people suing the right-wing news outlets for defamation.

          • Troutwaxer says:

            I don’t think they’re the answer to “political” woes, but they might be a good answer to the damage done by a certain kind of “news” story – the people who get caught up in the Right’s machinations face a terrifying personal toll.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Without the political will to combat gerrymandering, sustain voting rights and fair elections, and to reform the Court, no amount of money changing hands will help. Capital’s biggest players would like you to think otherwise – money changing hands is their purpose and religion – because when you do, they win.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      I have never liked CNN. Now that Chris Licht has taken over I hate them even more. Licht has seen a lane open up with the spectacular flame out of Fox.

      He is positioning CNN to take over the middle/right to slurp up the disaffected, less crazy conservatives who have been left in the lurch by Fox’s hard right. There is a big swath of conservative leaning independents who used to be moderate R’s who don’t want Trump, but still think Biden is too socialist adjacent for comfort.

      CNN is going to provide them with a My Pillow Guy free home that OAN and all the other Fox wannabes have not given them.

      When a company shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

      • Rayne says:

        It’s not just Chris Licht at CNN, though. It’s his boss David Zaslav and John C. Malone on the board of directors who are pulling the strings and will shape not only the content at CNN but across all of Warner Brothers Discovery. WBD has already killed movies with women main characters and will likely thwart any other diverse content until Malone in particular has shuffled off the mortal coil.

        Zaslav may have given to Democratic candidates, but he’s all too willing to do Malone’s fascist bidding including putting Licht in at CNN to create an Alt-Fox News. Malone is why AT&T’s DirecTV carried OAN for too long, and likely why AT&T has been rather shit as a telecom company because he was too intent on making a content company with access to Americans through telecom service.

        • bmaz says:

          No, but Licht is the little babyfaced smiling frontman. CNN was one of the truly great efforts in media ever. Now it is down to this. There is still news there, especially internationally, but getting hard to tell.

  5. ToldainDarkwater says:

    To me, Trump’s response was very equivocal, and this doesn’t play well to his base. It makes him look weak. The past pardons are something he will crow about – they won’t make him look weak, they will make him look strong.

    But muttering about “case by case” is not the red meat that crowd wants.

    And yes, I don’t disagree about how terrible his use of pardons was. Not at all. But this is a political fight, and what’s needed is to erode his support. He is already a disappointment to them. He could have pardoned them on January 10, 2020. He didn’t. He didn’t have their backs, and he might not still.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yup. And that’s honestly how a lot of those being prosecuted feel. The Proud Boys were really pissed that Bannon got a pardon on the same day that Biggs was arrested.

      But Trump has to say he’ll pardon them bc Marge has made it an issue.

    • Rugger_9 says:

      The pardon question is a dangle, nothing more and it will have as much value as any other promise made by Defendant-1. These are little people that can’t do anything for him on the scale that MBS does ($$$) or Bannon / Stone do (leverage). The J6 choir and their ilk have to realize their already in the ‘coffee boy’ zone and they need to be able to do more for him for any pardons to be issued.

      On other topics, I see that Carroll already had another defamation case pending so any CNN stuff might get piled into that. Speculation runs amok that CNN might get winged too, but malice and prior knowledge will be very hard to prove so it’s probably a fool’s errand with one exception. Such a filing might bring some interesting discovery about how Chris Licht is running things there.

      It’s not really clear to me that Defendant-1 admitted any new information with respect to the criminal cases pending, but I would certainly expect that he’ll have a harder time claiming he’s remorseful if he’s convicted as a ploy to reduce any sentence.

    • The Old Redneck says:

      Trump’s pardons are all about self-protection. Bannon and Manafort got pardons because they could have incriminated him.
      People like Biggs have nothing to offer Trump. They don’t know where the bodies are buried, so to speak. For that reason, they will be in jail for a long time.

    • Surfer2099 says:

      Trump’s base is so delusional, they will intentionally misconstrue any equivocation as a ‘wink-n-nod’ to mean whatever the hell they want it to mean. Stupid people who believe in conspiracy theories as much as they do can’t process normal language in any meaningful way. They’ll simply allow their conspiratorial minds to wonder and create some fiction that allows them to cheer Trump on.

      They only realize the truth if, and only if, it affect them directly as the ProudBoys have now found out.

      Trump had the chance to pardon them after 1/6 and didn’t and yet, they cheer on except those behind bars.

  6. Michael K says:

    “it is a fact that Trump pardoned his way out of legal trouble with Manafort.”

    Originally many legal experts warned that Trump couldn’t pardon his way out of legal trouble because prosecutors (and/or Congress) could then compel testimony from any co-conspirators Trump pardons. See for example:

    Do you have any sense of why that hasn’t happened? I understand why Bill Barr didn’t want to compel Manafort to testify to what Barr’s boss knew about Manafort’s crimes. But why wouldn’t Merrick Garland’s DOJ or Jack Smith pursue that?

  7. fubar jack says:

    Thanks Dr Wheeler for this and everything you write. This is one of the few times I’ve sensed you getting hot in a piece. Hope you’re keyboard is ok. If there is a multiverse, I’d like to think there is a version of earth where the press does not play ball with tfg and that Manafort gets eaten alive by his own alligator suit jacket.

  8. BruceF says:

    On his last day in office Trump also pardoned ten health care executives who had engaged in Medicare fraud. He pardoned five corrupt Republican members of Congress. Trump pardoned four men who cold heartedly murdered Iraqi women and children while serving in Erik Prince’s private army. Trump pardoned the boyfriend of Russian spy Maria Butina. Trump pardoned numerous swindler including Charles Kushner. Kushner’s son handled the pardon process on behalf of Trump a change in procedures as most Presidents utilized the office designated in the DOJ to initiate pardons. The change in process led to the belief that our highly transactional President sold pardons!

    This all took place in an environment where inauguation, impeachment and insurrection hogged headlines but the failure to make abuse of pardons an issue should not be missed by Democrat between now and November 2024. Like most acts of Trump their is a lot of dirt here!

    • timbozone says:

      Trump is certainly consistent in his pardoning of actual war criminals and corrupt political operators.

      • BruceF says:

        Correction: Trump pardoned the four BlackWater mercenaries in December. Their pardons, for the slaughter of innocent women and children compromises our nation’s stance on treating Putin as a war criminal.

        One of the health care frauds was Phillip Esformes who was convicted to twenty year in prison based upon over $1B in fraudulent charges against Medicare and Medicaid! I’ll bet Phillip washed some funds through to Jared to obtain such favorable treatement. Yes, that is a B…for billions–not an M!

        • bmaz says:

          Do you have any cite for you allegation as to Jared? If not, please never pull that again here.

          • BruceF says:

            We know some powerful well connected attorneys were paid large flat fees to obtain entre to Jared. If you believe Dowd and others did not jump to the front of the line for pardons and commutations via some form of pay off you are naive about the transactional leadership style that was operating around Trump. If you want a cite try NYT’s Dec 23,2020 editorial, Trump Corrupted Pardon Process: Biden Must Fix It.”. That editorial was published almost a month before Trump’s final round of corrupt pardons!

            • bmaz says:

              Yeah, that’s it, I am probably just naive. Am smart enough to not make unsubstantiated allegations that could be actionable though. You clearly are not. Consider this a second warning, don’t do that here.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                I might call you many things, and have considered it. But naive would never be one of them. :-)

                • BruceF says:


                  [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • GSSH-FullyReduced says:

      Nice one Bruce:
      “ Like most acts of Trump there is a lot of dirt here!”

      Any bets that yards of dirt can be sifted from the secret documents still being held by tfg in this strange little shell-game he seems to be playing?

  9. Spank Flaps says:

    Also there was a pardon for a retired general.
    Worst of all, would be if Trump won 2024 and done a self-pardon. That’s the ultimate question that Kaitlan Collins accidentally missed.

  10. Doctor My Eyes says:

    Thanks for the clear post and to BruceF for the truly obscene list of pardons. I’ve been feeling quite pessimistic the last couple of days, since the WP released a poll showing Trump beating Biden. It’s not that I believe that poll, it’s that this is what the Trump saga is reduced to by the media. When Nixon was caught out, his not-all-that-silent supporters finally did fall silent. You couldn’t find a Nixon voter anywhere; they wouldn’t even think of simply dismissing unacceptable behavior. Trump attempted to an overthrow of the US government, and that’s not even close to hyperbole. And the discussion is whether he’ll be elected president in 2024. Media continues to pretend that Trump’s a more or less normal person with whom it is worthwhile to debate issues, to hear his responses to accusations, to ask him “what would you do?” (Every what-would-you-do-question should begin with “If you’re not in prison, “) In short, things are way worse than the horrendous specific failure detailed in this post. The fact that we’re even having this discussion about one of Trump’s many disqualifying traits . . . sometimes, it’s just too much for me. Right now, pinning hopes for the future on the possibility that Trump may not be elected in 2024–it’s not even close to enough to hang one’s hat on. The very existence of the discussion signals a culture in deep decline. Sorry for the negativism, but I’m not feeling a bright future at the moment.

    • bmaz says:

      I grew up knowing two of the three who finally did Nixon in: Goldwater and John Rhodes, accompanied by Hugh Scott.

      To paraphrase the officer in The Bridges Of Tok Ri, “where do we find such men”? Answer is they pretty much do not exist in American politics at this point.

      • Doctor My Eyes says:

        Did you see the Goldwater documentary by his granddaughter? If so, I would be interested in your reaction. I took it to be an accurate portrayal, and it was a revelation how distorted one’s general, poorly-informed impressions can be. To the extent that Goldwater was much more decent and patriotic than the left has painted him, Trump is infinitely worse than even caricatures show him to be. These horrendous, history-altering pardons are just another day in the life of that hateful, treacherous, destructive narcissist.

        • bmaz says:

          Not only saw it, used to kind of know CC long ago. She was right. Barry was a far different, and better, person than commonly portrayed or understood. And, yeah, to my eye, a very decent take.

        • Matt___B says:

          Interestingly (and ironically), the public character assassination of Goldwater back in 1964 was such that it led the American Psychiatric Association to adopt the “Goldwater Rule” back in 1973 which was a code of conduct applied to all practicing psychiatrists who wished to keep their licenses to refrain from making public diagnoses of the psychiatric condition of well-known public figures.

          When Trump started running in 2015, there was much chafing against the Goldwater Rule, which had been in place for 42 years, by psychiatrists such as Bandy Lee who publicly decried the obsolescence of the Goldwater Rule in favor of a more important “duty to warn” of the danger some public figures pose to the general public.

          And that’s where it stands today…

          • BobBobCon says:

            To be clear, his role in purging the GOP of African Americans is absolutely horrible.

            And I wouldn’t urge anyone to trust the opinion of this guy on the Internet.

            Instead, get a hold of the second volume of Taylor Branch’s monumental Parting The Waters trilogy and read about Goldwater and the deliberate, calculated choices he made to turn the GOP into a party of Whites.

            This isn’t to knock down the ways in which Goldwater was different from the modern GOP, or his iconoclastic, courageous side. He had those qualities too. Ten times what you see in even a nominal opponent to Trumpism such as Mitt Romney, who regularly fails the legacy of his father George when it comes to civil rights.

            But the thing that Branch documented are absolutely chilling. The GOP in the early 60s was arguably better than the Democrats in terms of racial equality, and Goldwater was an absolutely malignant force in turning the GOP into the party of Strom Thurmond and not Jackie Robinson.

            Kevin Kruse documents the highlights here, but again, read Branch for a much fuller picture.


            To be clear, Goldwater and race isn’t the whole picture of Goldwater. He failed there, but you can make a good argument that he would have done everything in his power to oppose the curent GOP and their assault on America.

            But it’s worth remembering where Goldwater stood on civil rights, and ask about that part of his legacy too.

            • Matt___B says:

              Not to diminish Goldwater’s flaws either…he definitely had them. His popularity was boosted by the publishing of “None Dare Call It Treason” and a lot of support from the Birchers. We live in different times. Goldwater was still an institutionalist, nonetheless…

            • Doctor My Eyes says:

              Thanks for that interesting info. One sensible attitude of Goldwater’s was that he loathed the emerging “Christian right”, thought they should never be allowed a toehold in politics. Time has proven him to be correct about that. These days he would likely be called a centrist, which is a depressing thought.

              There were billboards all over Georgia: “In your heart you know he’s right.” My uncle was a big fan, which was a good reason to be dubious about Goldwater’s merits. But these days, if a person respects the constitution, which I think Goldwater did, it’s enough for me to think of them as a worthy adversary (h/t Colbert).

      • Marinela says:

        To clarify, they don’t exist in GOP. Democrats have many politicians that are honost and qualified. And there are honest people in American society but for whatever reason they choose to stay away from politics, public service.
        I do agree most of the gop politicians are not representing well their communities.

  11. MT Reedør says:

    It seems like CNN’s project is to get rid of people, and then put the remaining people (like Cooper and Collins) in an impossible position for their jobs to say or endure ridiculous things on the record that permanently compromise them in words and in thought. I expect this to continue until they are even closer to being Fox-2. It’s like 2016 again, having journalists get beat up and overwhelmed by lies, for the titillation of people that always hate complex discussions, or perhaps also hate the privilege of smart, wealthy people on TV.

  12. morganism says:

    Publish Date:May 12, 2023
    American Oversight Receives Indication That Durham Investigation Has Closed

    On Friday, the Department of Justice dropped a key objection to the release of more than 4,500 pages of documents related to the Durham investigation, the Trump-era inquiry into the origins of the FBI’s probe of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The DOJ had previously withheld the records claiming that their disclosure would interfere with an ongoing law enforcement investigation. Instead of filing an anticipated brief that would have defended the withholdings, the department withdrew its assertion of the “ongoing investigation” exemption — strongly suggesting that the Durham investigation has been closed.

    The reversal was announced in a motion filed in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit American Oversight brought in August 2019 to compel the release of documents related to the Durham inquiry, including communications between Durham and senior Justice Department officials and any communications Durham or DOJ officials may have had with the Trump White House or Congress.

  13. wasD4v1d says:

    I think it is the Constitution’s complete absence of limits on (federal) pardons that invites abuse.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Minor problem until Trump, whose excesses the GOP now considers the minimum of abuse they should inflict. Whatever happens to Trump, his GOP successors will be worse. They will not return to any semblance of governance the general population would recognize.

    • Critter7 says:

      Another reason why Trump issued those key pardons late in the game was to keep the perpetrators on the hook, giving him some leverage that encouraged Stone and Bannon to help the election steal attempt.

      With Bannon, he waited to pardon until after Jan 6 – and Bannon kept up the “stolen election” chorus throughout. And of course Bannon spetn time in the Willard Hotel War Room, Trump and Bannon were talking by phone frequently during the Jan 6 runup, etc.

      Before issuing the full pardon, Trump commuted Stone’s sentence before election day, thus keeping him out of jail so he could continue creating mayhem on Trump’s behalf. Based on breadcrumb comments dropped by Ali and on other info, it seems that Stone was pulling “Stop the Steal” strings behind the scenes while staying out of the limelight.

  14. Brian Ruff says:

    As egregious as these pardons are, I think the upcoming promised pardon by TX gov Abbott of a convicted murderer is even worse.
    The fascists are inching right up to state sponsored murder of their political enemies.

  15. Critter7 says:

    Another reason why Trump issued those key pardons late in the game was to keep the perpetrators on the hook, giving him some leverage that encouraged Stone and Bannon to help the election steal attempt.

    With Bannon, he waited to pardon until after Jan 6 – and Bannon kept up the “stolen election” chorus throughout. And of course Bannon spetn time in the Willard Hotel War Room, Trump and Bannon were talking by phone frequently during the Jan 6 runup, etc.

    Before issuing the full pardon, Trump commuted Stone’s sentence before election day, thus keeping him out of jail so he could continue creating mayhem on Trump’s behalf. Based on breadcrumb comments dropped by Ali and on other info, it seems that Stone was pulling “Stop the Steal” strings behind the scenes while staying out of the limelight.

  16. bloopie2 says:

    I read that Trump will look to use clips from the CNN show, in his campaign materials. If he can do that, perhaps CNN can also make that material available to all campaigns, including Democrats. Would be nice to see commercials showcasing his horrendous positions, geared toward “independent” or “swayable” voters. One might be directed at women, and show what he intends to to to them, for example. So perhaps some good could come of this debacle. But, what do I know?

  17. harpie says:

    Marcy, last night:
    9:42 PM · May 14, 2023

    A genuinely interesting development given the way Roger Stone 1) has a history of rent-a-mobs, especially in Florida and 2) coerced a pardon out of Trump (that CNN won’t tell you about in a Town Hall). [Link to Ryan Reilly THREAD/article]

    Quotes from that THREAD:

    1] BIGGS: calls on supporters of Capitol attack defendants to nail down Ron DeSantis on whether he’ll pardon Jan. 6 defendants.

    2] PEZZOLA: says “nothing got fixed” since the 2020 election, and he thinks the 2024 election could still be “stolen” by fraud. “Get out there and watch your polls,” Pezzola said. “I believe 2024 is make it or break it point for our county.”

    • harpie says:

      As Paul Waldman says in his THREAD on this [retweeted by Marcy on 5/11]:
      8:59 AM · May 11, 2023

      1. One thing last night made clear is that not only doesn’t “fact-checking in real time” work on Trump, it’s actually JUST WHAT HE WANTS. […]

      3. The conflict, and his bullying of the journalist, is the essence of the performance. […]

      4. The journalist with their petty “facts” is essential to the spectacle. […]

      5. It shows him defeating his enemy, mocking them, pouring his contempt on them while his fans applaud and cheer. Without that foil there’s no drama. When it’s over he has proven his mastery over the people he and his fans loathe. […he has TAUGHT those fans to loathe -harpie]

      6. That doesn’t mean anyone outside of his base is at all persuaded. But for that base, it creates a visceral thrill no other Republican [ie: DESANTIS] can touch.

      • harpie says:

        is the DRUG that AUTHORITARIAN FOLLOWERS crave.

        • harpie says:

          ie: FLYNN’s “ReAWAKEN America” Carnival and Road Show:

 8:32 AM · May 12, 2023

          ReAwaken America starting at Trump Doral. This traveling carnival of extremism & conspiracies has long backed Trump as God’s chosen, but now they’re at 1 of his properties. I attended 1 last year; this political movement borrows liturgy of church: [THREAD]

          […] Michael Flynn claiming during ReAwaken America at Trump Doral that those on the left don’t have souls is dangerous dehumanizing rhetoric.

          He’s painting this as a battle between God’s people & soulless creatures. [VIDEO][…]

        • c-i-v-i-l says:

          In this vein, insightful commentary from Noah Berlatsky:
          “CNN’s Trump town hall was a fascist ritual
          “… The CNN town hall was a 70 minute demonstration in the grim mechanics of how. Robert O. Paxton argues that a core characteristic of fascism is “an obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood” paired with “compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity.” Fascists claim that they, the pure bearers of the nation’s pride, are being assaulted, smeared, and debased (generally by marginalized people). They then use that as an excuse for extremes of violence in the name of revenge and purity.
          “… Trump’s voters empathize with Trump, and he in turn empathizes with them, assuring them that they are persecuted and under assault. And then, empathizing together in an organic community of amity, he tells them that the solution to their ills is atrocity. And they enthusiastically agree.
          “… Fascism is a mass movement. That doesn’t mean that people are tricked or hypnotized by a charismatic leader. It means that people encourage each other to form a community based in cruelty, bigotry, lies, and violence. The community feels good and right, not despite the fact that it gives people license to be their worst selves, but because it does. And, yes, millions of neighbors, relatives, and good, pure people can participate in the rituals of victimization, bigotry, and blood. Who is fascism for, after all, if not the good, pure people?”

  18. harpie says:

    Marcy, this momrning:
    4:52 AM · May 15, 2023

    Here @Dahlialithwick states very well what @paulwaldman1, @ThePlumLineGS, @AdamSerwer, @joshtpm and I have all been saying. It is a category error to assess the Town Hall on whether he was fact checked in real time.

    CNN allowed Trump to stage his domination of the truth. [Link to VELSHI tweet and VIDEO]

    Transcript of LITHWICK’s response:

    [0:23] LITHWICK: It’s such a good question, Ali, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot, as we’ve reflected, sort of, on whether CNN did the right or wrong thing platforming him this week and whether that was a mistake.

    To me, the real question isn’t what were the ratings, or whether he was fact checked in real time. Those are sort of ancillary questions. This, to me , highlights the fact that Donald Trump is not in a war with CNN, he is not just in a war with the jury that found him unanimously liable.

    He is in a war with truth itself. That’s the real issue we should be talking about.

    And every single person who studies authoritarianism, and, sort of, creeping, tyrannical rule, says that it’s truth that he’s trying to get ahead of.

    And, so, for us to be sort of having this horse race conversation about how many of his lies sort of seeped through, how many of them were caught, and whether or not there’s a way to do this while fact checking him, I think are missing this much larger, more existential question, which is, he doesn’t care about the truth.

    His point is to dominate truth.

    And so we have to really rethink, as journalists, how we cover him, not because fact checking his lies matters.

    What matters is every time he doubles down on a lie, he is making a point about him being the master of truth. And that’s very scary, and I’m not sure our brains have quite caught up to that reality. [1:53]

  19. klynn says:

    CNN and Kaitlin’s DT interview did zero news accountability but rather performed an hour long version of Jimmy Fallon’s September 2016 hair tussle.

  20. Scott Rose says:

    Don’t forget how overtly corrupt Trump’s commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence, and then his pardon of him were.
    Stone said that Trump, “knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t” and then, Trump commuted his sentence and pardoned him.

    Senator Romney sounded an alarm, saying: “Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”

    • Rick Ryan says:

      I came here to make sure this was noted. It’s in the complaint (.pdf linked), paragraph 132. It immediately follows this (para. 131): “Around February 16, 2019, they reviewed Giuliani’s emails with Ukrainian government officials, and again discussed the advisability of registering under FARA. Ms. Dunphy offered to complete the registration for him. Giuliani told her that he was able to break the laws because, he said: ‘I have immunity.'”

      The immunity line comes up again later (para. 172), “On April 23, 2019, Ms. Dunphy spoke with John Huvane, the CEO of Giuliani Partners . . . During this call . . . Mr. Huvane instructed . . . that Giuliani could not lobby because he was not registered as a lobbyist, nor was he registered as required under FARA.[footnote 12] . . . [Footnote 12]: Ms. Dunphy had encouraged him to register, but he refused because he claimed, ‘I have immunity.'”

      The pardons and FARA are mostly tangential to this particular suit, but they shed some light on this corruption, and Giuliani’s personal attitude and behavior. Perhaps another investigation would like to follow up with Ms. Dunphy about this — especially since she seems to have some of it recorded (Lordy, there are tapes).

      Also, not really relevant, but I have to note, the complaint includes a still from Borat 2 (para. 85): “But Giuliani would not leave. He sat on the bed and pulled down his pants. The following screenshot from the film Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm depicts Giuliani acting in a similar manner to how he acted with Ms. Dunphy:”. (TW: This is introduced within a detailed description of an alleged sexual assault.)

      [The document italicises the title of the film, but for some reason I cannot get that to show up here — my apologies.]

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