Counting on pardons?
If Nixon's failure to deliver promised pardons is any indication, Trump allies shouldn't hold their breath
[Read more at the Washington Post]
President Trump is flashing his pardon power like a pocketful of Get Out of Jail Free cards. Not only is he musing on Twitter about pardoning boxer Jack Johnson, he actually pardoned Scooter Libby, an aide to former Vice President Richard B. Cheney who was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice.
The takeaway for former (and current) aides ensnared in the multiplying Trump investigations is obvious: If they protect him, he may protect them. Trump wouldn’t be the first president to offer clemency for complicity. President Richard M. Nixon secretly promised pardons to his top Watergate co-conspirators and dangled clemency over the heads of lower-level henchmen. But Nixon never delivered, and Trump will prove no more faithful. Because as it turns out, pardons are easier to promise than to provide.
With Nixon, it started almost as a joke. Even before the Watergate break-in, Attorney General John Mitchell was getting nervous. Nixon told Mitchell to leak some dirt on Daniel Ellsberg, who had leaked the secret analysis of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers to journalists. Unfortunately, that dirt came from testimony before the grand jury that was investigating Ellsberg. Leaking grand jury testimony is a crime for any government attorney, including the attorney general.
Mitchell protested that he didn’t “want to go to jail,” drawing laughs from chief of staff H. R. Haldeman and policy advisor John Ehrlichman. “Of course,” Mitchell added, “if I’m going to jail, I want to go in a hurry, so I might get a pardon.”
“Ha. You bet,” Nixon said.
“Don’t count on it,” quipped Ehrlichman, prompting more laughter.
Nixon was paranoid that the leak of the Pentagon Papers (which covered Vietnam policy up through 1968, the year he was elected president) was merely a prelude to a leak of his own darkest Vietnam secret—which had the potential to destroy him.