Yes, Ye Olde Blanket Pardon

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April 7, 2021 9:12 a.m.

I’ve been wondering about this from the moment we learned Matt Gaetz was under federal investigation for sex trafficking or sex with a minor. Why didn’t he ask for a pardon? Or rather, he must have asked for and not received a pardon. Public reporting suggests that Gaetz drew the interest of federal prosecutors as far back as early June of 2020. That doesn’t mean Gaetz himself knew about the probe then or perhaps for some time after. But the investigation of what seems to have been his pretty close friend, Joel Greenberg, was public. It’s hard to imagine that he still didn’t know or suspect he was in jeopardy by mid-January when Trump was still in office and preparing what turned out to be an historic pardon spree, which gave especial focus to the legal woes of people who had been consistently loyal to him.

Presumably the request for a blanket pardon for all crimes, not specifying any particular wrongdoing but applying to literally anything Gaetz had done, was too much even for Trump. Which says a lot.

It’s also possible that Trump knew what trouble Gaetz was in and wasn’t fooled by the ask for an unlimited get-out-of-jail-free card. Bill Barr was briefed on the investigation in the summer of 2020. Normally it would be a good assumption that the Attorney General would not mention such a thing to a President. But Bill Barr wasn’t a normal AG. It’s possible he would have told Trump not to help Gaetz but warn Trump off doing anything that might get him crosswise with the investigation or to be wary of requests for things like blanket pardons.

There are so many liars involved in this story and the article is so hedged that I’m not sure we can take this report totally at face value. But I tend to believe it if for no other reason that it’s hard to imagine Gaetz wouldn’t make a play for a pardon given the apparent extent of his legal peril and how easily Trump handed them out.

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