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The Pardon Problem

Tim F. taking note of Alberto Gonzalez’s seeming penchant for defying his constitutional obligations with regard to testifying before congress (as Josh Marshall notes this isn’t optional, it’s illegal for him to just refuse to answer) in a full and accurate manner, draws my attention to this old debate:

George Mason, a distinguished Virginian who refused to sign the Constitution because of its lack of a bill of rights, noted that “the President of the United States has the unrestrained Power of granting Pardon for Treason; which may be sometimes exercised to screen from Punishment those whom he had secretly instigated to commit the Crime, and thereby prevent a Discovery of his own guilt.”

In light of the Scooter Libby matter, obviously, such things need to be taken seriously. There have been some inappropriate pardons in the past, but pardoning your own subordinates for official misconduct undertaken in support of your political goals has opened up a whole new can of worms. Gonzalez and anyone else can lie, stonewall, refuse to comply as much as they like, secure in the knowledge that not a single person will serve a single minute in prison for anything they do on George W. Bush’s behalf.

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