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Would a President Sanders Pardon Mrs. Clinton?

You are now entering a zone of entertainment value hypothetical political thought-experiments.

As we see the unexpected momentum of Bernie Sanders’ campaign continue apace, I thought of what is (at least to me) an interesting hypothetical. Would a President Bernie Sanders issue an executive pardon to Hillary Clinton if she were indicted and convicted on criminal charges?

As anyone paying attention is aware, Clinton is currently under investigationfor a number of instances of misconduct relating to the use of a private email server during her tenure as Secretary of State, upon which official State Department business was conducted. There are many concerning elements to the scandal, not the least of which is Mrs. Clinton’s apparent deliberate instructions to an aide to send classified information through non-secure channels, even though she knew this to be a breach of protocol and the law.

I think it’s safe to assume that, if Clinton is indicted or is otherwise rendered incapacitated in the 2016 presidential race, Bernie Sanders will eventually earn the DNC’s nomination. Momentum within the Sanders campaign is strong, and — chatter about a late entering by Vice President Joe Biden notwithstanding — there isn’t another candidate in the Democratic field able to take up the mantle as quickly or effectively. And it is this writer’s opinion that anyone not taking the notion of Bernie Sanders in the general election as a serious concern is guilty of a certain disconcerting hubris. Perhaps I’m speaking from my Millenial predisposition, but Sanders seems to command an Obama-esque commitment from his base. Sanders gets progressive voters (particularly the young ones) excited about the upcoming election in a way that won’t be replicated by another Democratic candidate in 2016.

So, let us for a second assume that we see a President Sanders in 2017. Could we see a presidential pardon for Hillary Clinton?

It certainly doesn’t seem like an action far outside the realm of possibility. We already know that Sanders is tired of hearing about Hillary’s “damn emails,” and corruption disguised as beneficence among the ruling class is hardly a novel concept in modern American politics.

While I’m sure it would be painted as a caring act of true justice, I think a pardoning of Clinton would indeed be a case of obvious corruption, and maybe serve as a satisfying olive branch to elite old guard progressives. But the precedent for both controversial (if not legally or ethically dubious) and legitimate presidential pardons is long established. Both Washington and Adams pardoned convicted traitors in the wake of the Whiskey Rebellion. Jefferson pardoned those convicted of violating the Sedition Act. Millard Fillmore pardoned two men convicted of smuggling slaves to freedom. James Monroe pardoned a gang of convicted pirates. Lyndon Johnson pardoned a congressman convicted of bribery at the behest of Bobby Kennedy. When Gerald Ford assumed the presidency in 1974, one of his first official actions as president was the pardoning of Richard Nixon. George W. Bush pardoned “Scooter” Libby.

Clinton’s pardon, of course, would have to (hopefully) make its way through the formal process of a presidential pardon. But something tells me they would find a way to make it seem legit at least.

The point is that Hillary Clinton currently has two lights at the end of a tunnel that might otherwise lead to her imprisonment: either the Department of Justice will continue to avoid her indictment indefinitely or President Sanders may become her savior.

Andrew M. S. BoydComment