|Margaret Colgate Love|
Former U.S. Pardon Attorney
For anyone concerned about the orderly functioning of a constitutional power of the presidency, bringing the attorney general into the pardon decision-making loop should be good news. Over the past two years, [Donald J.] Trump has granted pardons and sentence commutations without so much as a nod to the long-established review process in the Justice Department, which has become ever more mired in case backlogs and official neglect. Now the president has an attorney general he trusts, and one who knows the ropes in pardon matters because he was personally responsible for them in his first tour at the Justice Department. It is therefore not too much to hope that the attorney general will once again step forward to guide and protect the president in his exercise of the unruly power.Her prediction:
This hope is a reasonable one, particularly given what is at stake in these war crimes cases. To date, this president’s quixotic approach to pardoning has surely raised eyebrows, but it has had no adverse consequences for U.S. military or diplomatic interests. The only harm done by grants of clemency like those to Joe Arpaio and Conrad Black is to a president’s reputation.
If Attorney General [William] Barr’s advice to the president is to grant these pardons, or if he stands aside and lets the grants be made, it will compromise a long tradition of responsible advice-giving in pardon matters that has served the interests of the presidency since the Civil War. But I believe it is more likely that Barr will advise the president to forbear in these war crimes cases at least until the military justice system has run its course. . . .