Only a Proper Pardon <br>Could Clear Mrs. Clinton <br>From Taint of Scandal
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
No sooner did the director of the FBI, James Comey, take a powder on the Hillary Clinton scandal than the calls started coming for the appointment of a special counsel. If Mr. Comey’s idea was to quell the controversy, it looks like he failed.
So how’s the idea of a presidential pardon looking now?
I made that suggestion a year ago in the New York Post, and to me it grows more logical by the hour. Mr. Obama, I noted, wouldn’t need his infamous phone to do it. He could pardon Hillary Clinton with the stroke of a pen.
He could pardon Mrs. Clinton of the crimes the Republicans say she committed. He could pardon her of the crimes that even Mr. Comey says she committed but that “no reasonable prosecutor” would pursue.
Even a pardon might not end the controversy. But it would end Mrs. Clinton’s legal jeopardy (which will still be there if a Republican administration comes into power or a special counsel is appointed).
And Mr. Obama, unlike Mr. Comey, would be fully within his powers to make the decision to let Mrs. Clinton skate. The pardon power is the most straightforward power the president has.
Mr. Obama could write the pardon on a napkin, and that would be it. He doesn’t have to consult with the Justice Department. He doesn’t have to ask a judge. It doesn’t have to be confirmed by the Senate.
The president wouldn’t even have to give a reason or explain himself. He could, echoing Senator Sanders, say that “people are sick and tired of hearing about your damned e-mails.”
I’m not suggesting Mr. Obama ought to use the pardon. I’m simply saying that the pardon is the last move left after the hash the Justice Department made of the case.
A pardon wouldn’t entirely lift the taint from Hillary Clinton. The only way to do that would have been what the Chicago Tribune’s managing editor did when he was accused during World War II of inadvertently disclosing that we’d cracked the Japanese code.
The editor, J. Loy Maloney, barged into the United States attorney’s office. He demanded that he and his reporter, Stanley Johnston, who had just come from the Coral Sea, be put in front of a grand jury immediately.
When they were, the grand jury refused to indict them. What a contrast with Hillary Clinton. She’s whinged for a year about e-mailgate. She’s never demanded to be put in front of a grand jury, or to be tried by a jury in open court.
Instead, she’s curried favor with the president. Her husband fetched up on the attorney general’s plane at the most delicate hour. Her campaign put out a statement saying she might keep the attorney general, Loretta Lynch, on in her administration.
Maybe it will all blow away. More likely the doubts and controversy will swirl until November, obscuring the big policy issues in the campaign on which a lot of us think she’s even more vulnerable.
In recent weeks alone we’ve seen that she just doesn’t get Europe. She sided against independence for England (in sharp contrast to the more thoughtful and diplomatic Donald Trump).
Mrs. Clinton me-too’d Mr. Trump on the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership. She’s sided against Israel and Congress on the articles of appeasement that President Obama entered into with Iran.
She was outmaneuvered by Mr. Sanders on the Democratic platform. If the draft holds, she’ll be running on a platform that invites negotiations on Jerusalem. She can be counted on to raise taxes and government debt.
It may be that the calls for a special counsel will grow in coming weeks. But even the New York Times is acknowledging that Mr. Comey’s cosmetics provide Trump with a “ready-made attack ad.”
I’ve long been leery of prosecutors stepping in against politicians in the thick of a political fight. I’ve been with the conservatives who fought against prosecutors harrying the Reagan administration. Fight on the issues, we said.
At least with a pardon, a political leader would take responsibility. James Comey had no statutory or constitutional business making the decision on whether to prosecute. At least with a pardon, Mr. Obama would be saying, “blame me.”
This column first appeared in the New York Post.