My delight at the commutation of a life sentence for a non-violent drug crime is tempered somewhat by what I sense is the manner in which Donald J. Trump made his decision.
Alice Marie Johnson had served 21 years of a life sentence. Then the president intervened. He commuted her sentence. Johnson was able to go home to her family. She learned that “everyone has a phone” these days and plans to purchase a cellphone.
But … how did the president reach this decision?
He listened, apparently, to the pleas of a reality TV star, Kim Kardashian West. I guess she was appealing to Trump — reality TV celebrity to reality TV celebrity.
Did the president seek a legal analysis of the case from the Justice Department? Did he consult with legal counsel? Did he base his decision on a careful study of the merits of the case?
It doesn’t appear to be the case regarding any of it. That’s particularly true as it regards the DOJ, given that he has spent a lot of energy and Twitter rage of late savaging the “leadership” of the Justice Department and the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
He is said to be considering pardons for two “Celebrity Apprentice” contestants who appeared on the TV show Trump hosted before running for president: businesswoman Martha Stewart and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Is this a perk he is deploying for his pals? His political allies? Those who speak well of him — and about him?
I understand the presidential power inherent in this pardoning process. However, I get this nagging sense that Trump is cheapening it by the seemingly capricious nature of the pardons he has issued to date.
My “favorite” pardon involved former Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been sentenced to a prison term for disobeying a court order to stop profiling Hispanics he suspected of being illegal immigrants. That was nothing more than a disgraceful payback for the political support Arpaio threw at Trump when he was running for president.
Trump looks to be abusing the authority the Constitution grants him.
The president decided correctly regarding Alice Johnson. My concern is that he reached that decision out of favoritism rather than the law.