Let there be no doubt that United States presidents have absolute pardon power.
But that doesn't mean they should exercise it willy-nilly.
In pardoning author and conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza Thursday, having previously pardoned former Vice President Dick Cheney chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby and controversial Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and floating rumors about possible pardons for the likes of Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich, President Donald Trump is setting himself up to be a celebrity fairy godfather of sorts.
Worse, his actions portend him being the potential grantor of absolution for any and all crimes that deal with the special counsel's investigation of Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
It seems smarmy and a little worrisome.
We say that with the knowledge that D'Souza's prosecution on illegal campaign contributions was almost certainly a political hit job by the Obama administration, that the prosecutions of Libby and Arpaio also have been seen to have political tinges, and that politics have played and continue to play a part in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
Nevertheless, it worries us that prosecutors who might have legitimate cases will be wary of making them against certain FODs (Friends of Donald) because of the possibility of pardon, and that potential pardons of Russian investigation figures may deny the public from ever knowing the truth of what took place.
Trump, allegedly, didn't know D'Souza, who once was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and whose skewering of left-wing politicians and politics unquestionably hit a few nerves.
Indeed, it was his 2012 documentary movie, "2016: Obama's America," that he believes kicked off the investigation into his campaign contributions.
D'Souza, for his part, said during a 2017 appearance at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that he was guilty as charged, though he claimed he did not know that what he did — repay donors to a New York Senate campaign because he was "maxed out" in contributions — was illegal. Of course, ignorance of the law cannot be used as an excuse for breaking it.
But the $20,000 amount involved — especially with no finding of corruption — is usually settled by payment of an administrative fine to the Federal Election Commission. The author and filmmaker, though, was charged with multiple felony counts and received a sentence of five years of probation (including eight months in a halfway house), community service and a $30,000 fine.
Nevertheless, D'Souza did his time and paid his fine and has gone back to his job of getting under liberals' skins. He said he had never talked to Trump until the president called him about the pardon earlier this week.
Reportedly, his pardon, as well as those of Libby and Arpaio, were not run through the Office of the Pardon Attorney, as many previous presidential pardons were, though there is no law that says they must be.
Stewart, the home decorating and entertaining maven, and Blogojevich, the former Democratic governor of Illinois who was accused of trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat of former President Barack Obama, are associated with Trump through his hosting of the reality television show "The Apprentice."
Meanwhile, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West got face time with the president earlier this week allegedly to discuss a pardon for Alice Marie Johnson, who has served more than 20 years of a life sentence in prison for her involvement in a Memphis drug trafficking operation.
In many ways, the pardons and discussion of pardons is Trump being Trump, thumbing his nose at convention, attempting to undo political wrongs for others as he believes have been done to him. But most presidents wait until the end of their term(s) and get clearance from the pardons office.
President Bill Clinton, for instance, the king of recent presidential pardoners, absolved Henry Cisneros, his former secretary of Housing and Urban Development; the president's brother, Roger; John Deutch, a former director of the CIA; Patty Hearst, the socialite daughter-turned-bank robber; Susan McDougal, partner with the Clintons in their failed Whitewater land deal; Marc Rich, who illegally traded with Iran; and former U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, who had been convicted for his role in the congressional post office scandal.
Obama commuted the sentence of, among others, Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. Army soldier who had been sentenced to 35 years in prison for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks.
As for Trump, we hope he'll let Mueller complete his work without any discussion of pardons. To date, the only individuals the investigation has found any dirt on are low-level players who were disconnected from the then-candidate. As time goes on, the investigation seems to have less and less to do with him.
If and when it is over and if that still is the case, and only those already arrested now remain as culprits, he could consider pardons. But any premature discussion only makes his supporters and nonsupporters suspicious of his motives and wonder why they elected a fairy godfather and not a president.