Former President Donald Trump has promised to pardon a "large portion" of the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 if he wins the 2024 presidential election. It's a promise he would likely make good on; during his four years in the White House, Trump granted presidential pardons to a long list of cronies who were convicted of or pled guilty to federal crimes — from GOP operative Roger Stone to Paul Manafort (Trump's former 2016 campaign manager) to Michael Flynn (Trump's former national security adviser).
In an article published by The Bulwark on May 30, author Gabriel Schoenfeld stresses that America's Founding Fathers had good reasons for giving presidents the pardon power. But Trump, Schoenfeld laments, repeatedly "abused" that power — and will surely abuse it "on an even greater scale" if he returns to the White House in January 2025.
Schoenfeld explains, "The pardon power has deep roots in British law, with a precedent at least as far back as the statutory rolls of the Anglo-Saxon monarchs in the 7th and 8th Centuries…. As for the scope of the power, the Framers believed it should be exceptionally broad.… The pardon power granted to the president by the Constitution is nearly absolute."
But Trump, Schoenfeld adds, used "the pardon power in unprecedented fashion."
"The man who abused the pardon power in this brazen way is now once again the frontrunner in the Republican primary contest for the presidency," Schoenfeld warns. "Given President Joe Biden's age, given the fact that in 2020, Trump missed tying Biden in the Electoral College by a mere 45,000 votes, and given the fact that Trump actually succeeded in winning the presidency in 2016, there is an all-too-real possibility that he will be returned to the White House in 2024. During this month's CNN townhall, Trump said that if reelected, he would be 'inclined to pardon many' people convicted for their involvement in the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol."
Schoenfeld continues, "Of course, one cannot know in advance, but this well might include those convicted of sedition — members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers — like Oath Keeper leader Elmer Stewart Rhodes, sentenced last week to serve 18 years in prison. If Trump were to pardon Rhodes and his co-conspirators, along with many of the other roughly 1000 January 6th defendants, Trump will be in a position to forge what amounts to a personal militia, whose members, grateful and loyal to him, will have license to work his will outside of the law, secure in the knowledge that they will be pardoned, including for felonies as serious as sedition."