Pardon for Hillary Clinton <br>Could Clear the Deck <br>For a Trump Take-Off

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President-elect Donald Trump and President Obama are due to meet Thursday to begin the transition in a way designed to unite the country. One of the best things they could discuss is the possibility of a pardon for Hillary Clinton.

This question was put to White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Wednesday. Mr. Earnest issued a long, winding answer, while refusing, astute listeners noted, to rule out a pardon for the former First Lady.

That would mean using the president’s nearly unlimited constitutional power to grant a pardon for offenses against the United States. It could be used to halt any criminal investigation of Mrs. Clinton for her e-mails and the FBI investigation into whether the Clinton Foundation engaged in criminal influence-peddling.

What makes the question so hot is Mr. Trump’s threat, in his second debate with Mrs. Clinton, to appoint a special prosecutor to look into her e-mail and related issues. It was met with gasps of horror, even among some of us who were inclined to support Trump.

That underscores that a pardon for Hillary Clinton would be a win-win-win — for Mr. Trump, the president, and the voters. Particularly after Mr. Trump declared in his victory speech that it is time to “bind the wounds of division” and “to come together as one united people.”

If Mr. Trump is serious about that, the last thing he would want is for his new administration to get bogged down in an endless prosecution of his vanquished opponent. Instead, he should work to put these controversies behind him so that he could start making America great again.

This is how President Gerald Ford thought about Richard Nixon, who resigned his presidency in 1974, one step ahead of the law. Ford pardoned him a month later for offenses related to Watergate so as to prevent the controversy from obscuring Ford’s own presidency.

The first time I argued for a pardon for Mrs. Clinton was in a column last year in the New York Post. It would, I noted, take just a stroke of a pen for the president to clear her of any crimes related to her e-mails, her handling of state secrets, and favors for donors to the Clinton charities.

It’s not necessary to wait for an indictment, or to clear the pardons with the Justice Department, or to get them ratified by the Senate or approved by a judge. The pardon is the least-fettered of any power the Constitution grants to the president.

At the time, with the election more than half a year into the future, I was thinking that the logical person to issue a pardon to Mrs. Clinton would be Mr. Obama. He is still the person to do the job, though for him to do it alone could make it look like a cover-up.

So maybe Messrs. Obama and Trump ought to put out a joint statement in respect of the Hillary Clinton pardon. Mr. Obama could issue the pardon during his lame-duck period, while Mr. Trump could endorse it as something he wants to clear the way for him to focus on his new job.

Special prosecutors, after all, pose their own problems. Experience teaches that once a prosecutor is freed from the usual constraints (including political ones) that all prosecutors normally work under, things can get out of hand.

Who can appreciate that more than Hillary Clinton? Her husband was nearly hounded from office by a special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr. Mr. Clinton’s predecessor, President George H.W. Bush, may have lost a second term because of a runaway independent prosecutor.

That was Lawrence Walsh, who only days before the 1992 presidential election got a grand jury to hand up an indictment against Reagan’s ex-defense secretary Caspar Weinberger. To end that malicious prosecution, a lame-duck George H.W. Bush used the pardon.

It probably wasn’t Mr. Bush’s intention at the time to help the man who had just defeated him in the election. But that was one of its effects. A criminal trial of Weinberger would have overshadowed Mr. Clinton’s ambitions for his first term.

Though the parallels aren’t exact, that’s the logic of moving to end the Clinton controversy. She gave, in what must be one of her finest hours, a brave concession speech. She is not the only one for whom it can be said that the time has come to move on.

This column first appeared in the New York Post.

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