Trump: Manafort trial is very sad

As the jury deliberates, President Trump called the Paul Manafort trial "very sad" and said that Manafort was a "very good person."

Posted: Aug 19, 2018 11:54 AM
Updated: Aug 19, 2018 12:05 PM

At Paul Manafort's trial, his lawyers took the unusual step of not calling any witnesses for the defense, setting off speculation that Manafort is relying on the prospect of a presidential pardon. Friday morning, President Trump refused to address whether or not he would take such a step but he did say, "he happens to be a very good person. I think it's very sad what they've done to Paul Manafort."

President Trump's use of the pardon power since he took office makes a pardon for Manafort, should he be convicted, quite plausible, but equally troubling. The jury has completed its second day of deliberations without a verdict in what is the first of the two trials Manafort is facing.

Unlike recent presidents, President Trump has avoided the Department of Justice's mechanism for vetting pardons and has explicitly injected politics into the process. American history shows that political pardons aren't necessarily a problem. But the political message sent by President Trump's pardons is.

Many people are uncomfortable with Trump's pardons because recent presidents have avoided such blatant politicization of the power. They have instead pardoned for reasons of fairness or because the recipient had reformed.

Moreover, the process is set up to discourage the President from pardoning for political reasons. The Office of the Pardon Attorney is a relatively neutral bureaucracy established to assist the President with the exercise of executive clemency. The Pardon Attorney and his or her staff assess the merits of individual applications and submit recommendations to the President.

During recent presidencies, the vast majority of pardons have proceeded through this route. When exceptions occurred, they occasioned public opprobrium and calls for investigation. This was the case with President Bill Clinton's pardon of financier Marc Rich during his last hours in office.

Trump has upended the normal model. His recent pardons of Dwight and Steven Hammond, the Oregon ranchers convicted of arson for setting fires that burned more than 100 acres of federal land, was only the latest instance of his political use of the pardon power.

Last year, Trump issued a similarly controversial pardon of former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, pardoned Dinesh D'Souza for violating campaign finance law, and he has touted his ability to pardon even himself. In fact, political pardons are the only kind he has given.

In Trump's defense, earlier presidents had forcefully deployed the political potential of the pardon power. At the very beginning of the Republic, President Washington used a combination of force and mercy to stem the Whiskey Rebellion.

Farmers in Western Pennsylvania had resisted imposition of a tax on the production of whiskey, their principal export, and their opposition turned violent. Washington, aided by Alexander Hamilton, led troops into the area in 1794. When some of the rebels were then prosecuted and sentenced to death, Washington pardoned them, proclaiming, "The misled have abandoned their errors."

Similarly, in the aftermath of the Civil War and President Lincoln's assassination, President Andrew Johnson pardoned many members of the former Confederacy. His eagerness to restore rights to these individuals without what many saw as sufficient concessions on the recipients' parts led to increasing conflict with Congress. Although Congress had initially supported amnesty, it withdrew its backing in an 1870 statute, setting up the conditions for a constitutional conflict. In United States v. Klein (1871), the Supreme Court held that Congress could not restrict the scope of a presidential pardon as it had attempted to do.

Supporters of President Trump would be right to conclude that the political use of the pardon power has precedent in American history. However, close examination of this precedent reveals a gulf between Trump's political use of pardoning and that favored by Washington and Johnson.

For those two presidents, pardoning represented a technique of transitional justice, reintegrating rebels who had fought against the federal government while acknowledging their defeat. While the Hammonds' acts both resulted from and encouraged resistance to federal control over Western lands, Trump's pardon signaled not the defeat of their position but the President's willingness to cede environmental protection of federal lands.

Trump's other pardons have similarly created political exceptions to the rule of law that support his own views rather than representing a magnanimous offer of clemency in service of collective peace.

Using the pardon power in this manner calls to mind Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt's statement that "Sovereign is he who decides on the exception." In other words, whoever declares that the rule of law doesn't apply at the same time announces himself as the highest power in the state. This idea was used to justify the grant of emergency powers to the German President under Article 48 of the Weimer Constitution, enabling Hitler's rise to power.

While Schmitt's writings focus less prominently on pardoning, the power to pardon, in Article 49 of the Weimer Constitution, was structurally similar to the power to declare an emergency under Article 48. Both enabled an exception from the rule of law, an exception that revealed the true location of sovereignty within the state.

By adding a pardon of Manafort to the ones he has already performed, Trump would confirm the fears of those who have been suspicious of his exercise of the pardon power. Trump has intuited the force of the pardon as exception and, in pardoning Manafort, would be using it to declare himself sovereign and his associates above the law.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33558

Reported Deaths: 2110
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9616571
Lake3538185
Cass15897
Allen145168
St. Joseph124834
Elkhart116328
Hendricks116171
Hamilton115693
Johnson1093108
Madison58559
Porter51627
Bartholomew50034
Clark49241
LaPorte42423
Howard39526
Tippecanoe3903
Jackson3791
Delaware37736
Shelby36822
Hancock32728
Floyd31839
Boone30935
Morgan27824
Vanderburgh2652
Montgomery23517
White2318
Decatur22431
Clinton2231
Noble21121
Grant20621
Harrison19221
Dubois1923
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16612
Warrick16628
Dearborn16621
Vigo1648
Lawrence15423
Miami1411
Putnam1367
Jennings1304
Orange12522
Scott1193
Kosciusko1111
Franklin1098
Ripley1086
Carroll922
Marshall901
Daviess8516
Steuben812
Newton7710
Wayne776
Fayette767
Wabash762
LaGrange712
Jasper651
Washington521
Jay500
Fulton481
Clay471
Rush462
Randolph463
Pulaski460
Jefferson431
Whitley393
Starke363
Sullivan341
Owen341
Brown331
DeKalb331
Perry310
Benton300
Knox290
Wells280
Huntington272
Tipton251
Crawford240
Blackford242
Fountain202
Switzerland200
Spencer191
Parke170
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin110
Vermillion100
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0164
West Lafayette
Few Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 69°
Kokomo
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 66°
Rensselaer
Scattered Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 64°
Fowler
Scattered Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 64°
Williamsport
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 67°
Crawfordsville
Scattered Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 65°
Frankfort
Broken Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 68°
Delphi
Scattered Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 65°
Monticello
Scattered Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 65°
Logansport
Scattered Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 64°
Cooler, less humid weather ahead by the weekend.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events