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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/11/20

"Commute - Not Pardon" - How Trump Played Roger Stone

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What does Trump's decision on Stone mean for his reelection? Gidley weighs in Trump 2020 campaign national press secretary Hogan Gidley breaks down President Trump's decision to commute Roger Stone's sentence. #FoxNews ...
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The news media is salivating over what is seen as President Donald Trump's commuting of his long-time friend and crony, Roger Stone's, 40-month prison sentence just days before Stone was to report to prison to start serving his sentence. Of course, the liberal media and sundry talking heads immediately pounced and piled on about Trump's new and dizzying corruption scandal going on and on about how this action again proves that the erratic and unpredictable United States president has no respect for the rule of law. Nothing, I repeat, nothing here is new. And, for those glazy-eyed Republicans who thought that Donald Trump would have been chastened and constrained by his brush with impeachment, this shows just how very wrong they all have been.

Still, lost in all the chatter is the fundamental fact that Roger Stone WAS NOT PARDONED by the president BECAUSE THE PRESIDENT COULD NOT DO THAT and if he had this action would have opened up a legal can of worms and at worst a flagrant and illegal violation of the United States Constitution. So, Trump played Roger Stone to keep his lip buttoned by commuting his sentence. Oh well, half a loaf is better than none, eh Roger? And while Democrats and the liberal mainstream media cry bloody murder, there is not a damn thing that they can do to "undo the Stone commutation." President Trump, as odious, corrupt and morally reprehensible as this action was IS LEGALLY ON FIRM, UNIMPEACHABLE GROUNDS here, and anyone yapping about how bad or unprincipled the POTUS is, well, what else is new?

However, in the interest of objective clarity let me unpack the facts. First, I'm no lawyer or legal whizz kid. But, unlike the POTUS, I do not need a "cognitive test/exam pregnant with questions about the differences between cows and goats," to look at the facts, and draw educated and informed conclusions.

According to Constitution scholars, the Framers sought to protect the United States from scenarios like the Roger Stone embarrassment. They imagined this kind of political nightmare scenario when a suspected criminal president would abuse the almost absolute presidential power to pardon a co-conspirator. To prevent this, the Framers put in the Constitution language to legally prohibit the pardon power in exactly these kinds of cases. As a layman, here's why President Trump could not pardon Roger Stone. According to the plain text meaning of the Constitution, and historical evidence, "once a president was impeached, he/she loses the power to pardon anyone for criminal offenses connected to the articles of impeachment." So, even after President Trump was let off the impeachment conviction hook by a partisan Republican Senate - he's still an impeached president and do not regain this power.

Let's now get into legalese: Under Article II, Section II of the Constitution, the president is given the "power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment." Pardons, now totally politicized and corrupted by BOTH Republican and Democratic presidents, are supposed to be used as acts of mercy, pure and simple. In fact, the wise and forward-thinking framers thought of the pardon power as a "benign prerogative"prerogative because it was mostly unchecked by courts or Congress, but benign because presidents would and should use it for the greater public good.

However, they knew not to place blind trust in any president, no matter how well-meaning, to wield this power justly. That's why they wrote into the Constitution specific language that forbade any president from exercising the pardon power in "cases of impeachment." This check was put in place to block the kind of illegal shenanigans and corrupt practices that President Trump is quite capable of as demonstrated by the commutation of Roger Stone's jail sentence. While Stone will not spend a day in jail, he's still a convicted felon, and will forfeit some rights that other Americans enjoy. Unless the courts overturn his conviction, Roger Stone will always be a convicted criminal pal of President Donald Trump.

We can certainly thank the framers of the United States Constitution for their wisdom in this regard. Their actions worked to prevent the worst abuse of the pardon power: an impeached president's pardoning of cronies who have been convicted of crimes related to the president's own wrongdoing and alleged criminal actions and behaviors. History is a great teacher, and this clear and present danger of presidential corruption, cronyism and wrongdoing was uppermost on the minds of the framers of the Constitution in 1788. George Mason and delegates in Virginia debated this issue, and he felt so strongly about it that he argued that ratification of the Constitution should be delayed pending consensus on this issue. He also refused to sign the draft Constitution until this matter was thoughtfully and carefully resolved.

"The President ought not to have the power of pardoning, because he may frequently pardon crimes which were advised by himself. It may happen, at some future day, that he will establish a monarchy, and destroy the republic. If he has the power of granting pardons before indictment, or conviction, may he not stop inquiry and prevent detection?" Mason said 232 years ago.

Indeed, that centuries old debate not only reflected the concern of the framers, but their steadfast commitment to literally "protecting the president from himself." They needed a robust response to the danger of any president's abusing the pardon to protect co-conspirators. In his reply to Mason, James Madison, a primary author of the Constitution, said that such pardons were barred by the Constitution as it was already written: "No president could pardon co-conspirators. If the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds to believe he will shelter himself; the House of Representatives can impeach him. They can remove him if found guilty; they can suspend him when suspected, and the power will devolve on the vice-president."

Trump's pardoning of convicted criminals like former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio though ill-advised, cannot be legally or constitutionally challenged. No matter how immoral or reprehensible that is, the POTUS does have that power that's enshrined and protected by the United States Constitution. By contrast, pardoning longtime friend, adviser and now convicted felon, Roger Stone, would be illegal and unconstitutional, as his crimes relate directly to President Trump's impeachment.

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MICHAEL DERK ROBERTS Small Business Consultant, Editor, and Social Media & Communications Expert, New York Over the past 20 years I've been a top SMALL BUSINESS CONSULTANT and POLITICAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST in Brooklyn, New York, running (more...)

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