Pass the pardon, please

Published December 7, 2023

By Lib Campbell

One can only imagine what will happen in a second presidency of Donald Trump. One of the more frightening possibilities is the abuse of power in handing out pardons like gum drops to cronies, who pledge fealty to Caesar in return. The Washington Post raises the concern in an op-ed titled: “Trump Pardoned Them. Now They are Helping Him Return to Power.”
The list of sycophants is long and filled with recognizable names. These are people who have abused power. Promoted conspiracies. Been fraudulent with money. Snubbed the Justice System. See how many you remember: Steve Bannon, Rod Blagojevich, Joe Arpaio (the Arizona sheriff who tried to throw the election), Scooter Libby, Michael Flynn, Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone. There are many more to list, but space doesn’t allow. Their names read like a rogue’s gallery who committed nefarious deeds because they knew a presidential pardon would likely be granted. 
When you expect a pardon and are given a free “get-out-of-jail” card, the sky is the limit as to which laws can be twisted, broken, or ignored. This whole lot of people thumbed their noses at the Justice System and the Rule of Law. 
When an unbridled president assumes “unfettered power of the Presidency,” we have lost a foundational tenet of the American experiment. America, in its reverence and centuries long respect for the Rule of Law, adheres to basic civilities. Parking between the lines. Stopping at a red light. Yielding the right of way. When you get away with a little, you tend to push the envelope a little bit more. 
Trump’s cronies have gotten away with a lot, yet through the power of the pardon, are free to keep manifesting mischief all around us. Many of these pardoned people are working to get Donald Trump elected to another term! It should surprise no one that Trump is vowing revenge on his enemies, we the vermin, as well as pardons to anyone who supports him. He has even promised to pardon the convicted seditionists of the January 6 coup attempt. He is saying this repeatedly in his campaign vitriol. We need to believe him.
The sad truth about this presidential abuse of power is that too many people in America languish for years in prison, even when innocent of what they have been convicted. The Innocence Project reports that one percent of the American population, roughly 20,000 people, have been falsely convicted and sit in jails all over this country. Since 1980, 850 people have been exonerated. Too little funding and too few advocates make this slow work. North Carolina is trying to do something about this. 
In 2002, under the leadership of Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake, the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence was formed. Their initial purpose was to “study causational factors associated with wrongful convictions.” NC was the first state with an agency given statutory powers to investigate innocence claims. Among those powers are proper preservation of biological evidence, increased compensation and support for exonerees, and access to post-conviction DNA testing. Read more by searching 
It is disheartening when the courts convict a bad person, who happens to be useful to a corrupt president, then gives that person a pardon. It’s especially wrong when that same pardon could be used as it was intended, to free the wrongly accused. This is topsy-turvy justice at best. 
What will remain of democracy when the Rule of Law is decimated and the Justice System stacked with the president’s lackies? What will remain in a country that is led by self-serving, power-grabbing people who act as if they are above the law? All the guardrails, all the checks and balances will be dismantled as people fawn over Trump, while their oaths to the constitution evaporate. Apparently, Donald Trump really could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and be cheered on for it. What has happened to us? 
The word for the first week of Advent is Hope. Hope is the gift of grace that keeps us keeping on through the scary and sad stuff we are going through, be it in our homes or at the highest levels of government. We cannot get discouraged and give up this amazing republic we call America.
We have led and blessed the world with compassionate hearts and hands that work to lift others up. It will be careless to let galvanized grievance drive our future. Hope comes to a weary world in unexpected places. It’s time to tune out the noise and rinse out our mouths with soap before we utter any harmful word. 
Let us urge one another to stay on a path that offers hope, peace, joy, and love to the world. And work for the miracle of pardons for those who deserve them. 
We can hope.
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite She can be contacted at