There are rumblings that the FBI has completed it’s investigation into Hillary’s use of a private, non-secure email arrangement to handle classified information. If true, that would mean they are preparing a legal case against her. Reportedly, their case is formidable.
A variety of conspiracy theories that attempt to predict how all this will play out can be found in the blogosphere. There’s a little bit of everything out there. Even the idea that in September she’ll be formally indicted, and in response, Michelle Obama will move in as the Democratic candidate for the Presidency.
Addressing the veracity of such theories isn’t the purpose of this article. That’s a separate topic for another time. Instead, it’s prudent to take a look at the way in which both the Obama administration and Hillary’s campaign can survive this whole ordeal.
Article II Section 2 of the United States Constitution gives the President the power to grant pardons. Barack Obama may grant a pardon to Hillary Clinton.
It would work like this:
— The FBI will present their case against Clinton to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. This places Lynch between a rock and a hard place. If her Justice Department doesn’t issue an indictment, the idea that our system of Justice is prejudicially biased in favor of the powerful and well connected is reinforced. Moreover, the progressive base would be hard pressed to reconcile that along with the treatment of people they admire like Edward Snowden with Hillary’s exoneration. If an indictment is issued, the administration can maintain it’s claims of transparency and impartial enforcement of the law. Although, they would face the troublesome optics of their best candidate running for office with an indictment hanging over her head.
— The decision on whether or not to indict most likely won’t be one Lynch makes on her own. It will be decided at the highest levels of power. As such it will be as much a political decision as it will be a legal one. The Obama administration needs for Hillary to stay in the race – an indictment and subsequent legal proceedings could change that. If they don’t indict, the adverse consequences for them and their legacy would be huge. So, they indict.
— Hillary will deliver some kind of mea culpa.
— Barack Obama, in response to Hillary’s mea culpa, will be portrayed as the epitome of benevolence when he issues a pardon before the case ever gets anywhere near a court room.
— Hillary accepts the pardon and continues her bid for the White House unabated.
The way in which this spectacle would play out on the public stage is intriguing in the same way watching a train wreck begs one’s attention: a tumultuous thing to witness. Appalling as it unfolds. And impossible to get away from; it would dominate the 24/7 news cycle.
Can Obama pardon someone who hasn’t been convicted? He can. Historical precedent includes:
— The pardon of President Richard Nixon. In 1974, Nixon resigned. Impeachment proceedings were never conducted against him.
— President Andrew Johnson issued a blanket pardon for former Confederates in May 1865 as a part of an effort to heal national wounds inflicted by the Civil War.
— Brigham Young was pardoned by President James Buchannan in April 1858 following the “Utah War”. Young was never subjected to a judicial proceeding prior to receiving his pardon.
— Vietnam draft-dodgers were pardoned by President Carter on January 21, 1977.
By accepting the pardon, Hillary must also accept guilt for whatever she’s charged with in the indictment. This isn’t hyperbole. It’s legal precedent. In 1915 the Supreme Court determined in Burdick vs United States that acceptance of a pardon carried with it “an admission of guilt”.
Can Hillary continue her campaign with an admission of guilt on her record? Yes.
Founder of Industrial Workers of the World and Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debbs ran — and received 3.4% of the vote — for President from prison in 1920. He was serving a ten year sentence after being convicted for violations of the Espionage Act of 1917.
Debbs had more than an “admission of guilt” to contend with. He was a convict. Yet, he ran for President. Hillary would only have to contend with the stigma of her own mea culpa and the pardon that followed.