Thursday, December 25, 2008

The President: Pardons, Language, Spin and ...

The New York Times reports that the master warrant for the last string of Bush pardons (and one commutation) read,

“After considering the applications for executive clemency of the following named persons, I hereby grant full and unconditional pardons to the following named persons.’’
This is in contrast to language on the master warrant that was used last month, which read:

“After considering the applications for executive clemency of the following named persons and a letter from the Department of Justice in each case, I hereby grant full and unconditional pardons to the following named persons.’’
See Times story here. Of course, we now know at least one reason why the language varies. The pardon application of Isaac Robert Toussie was not accepted in the Office of the Pardon Attorney, because it did not meet the Department of Justice's five-year waiting requirement. So, Toussie's lawyer, a former White House counsel, used the strings that he had to get a presidential pardon without the recommendation of the U.S. Pardon Attorney and without the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General.

How could this have happened? For now, the story is that current White House council, Fred Fielding, expressed a positive view of the un-vetted application and President Bush was swayed. Since he signed his name to a master warrant (containing 19 other names), Bush has asked that no individual warrant be created for Toussie and that the Pardon Attorney review the case now, again. That is to say, according to the President, the deal is not done. There is no pardon. Why? The White House claims that it was not fully informed with respect to the application. New details have come to light. Is this the fault of Mr. Fielding? or the fault of the legions of persons watching every move the lame-duck President makes with meticulous detail?

Did Mr. Fielding tell Bush that the request for the waiver of the waiting period was denied by the Pardon Attorney, and Bush signed his name anyway? Did Fielding tell Bush that the application was not supported by either the Pardon Attorney or the Deputy Attorney General, and Bush signed his name anyway? If all of this is true, then what could possibly have been the "new development" that suddenly rendered the application an unacceptable stink bomb? Donations to the Republican Party by a relative of the applicant? Are you serious? That is the straw that broke this camel's back?

Either someone is playing high and mighty, or someone is about to be thrown in front of the bus. Either way, it's all ugly.

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