One would think President Trump’s commuting of the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson — a black woman from Tennessee whose appeals to the first black president were roundly ignored — would grant the president at least a moment of reprieve from the ongoing onslaught of the mainstream media.
Johnson seems a poster great-grandmother for sentencing reform – she was serving a life sentence for conspiracy to possess cocaine and attempted possession of cocaine, both nonviolent crimes, and was a model prisoner whose own warden said she deserved to be freed.
But Trump did it, which means the mainstream media had to find items to criticize.
The biggest criticism is the president became interested in the case only because it was brought to his attention by a celebrity – Kim Kardashian West, wife of Kanye West, who recently came out as a Trump supporter.
“Trump was, as far as we can tell, totally unaware of this case until Kardashian personally lobbied him to do something about it, wrote Vox. “If Kardashian – a wealthy celebrity – did not have access to the White House, and Trump in particular, it’s likely that Johnson would have remained in prison forever. This is not how a president is supposed to exercise his pardon or commutation powers.”
He is pardoning political allies – Joe Arpaio, the 85-year-old former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Dinesh D’Souza, a political commentator who was close to completing his five years of probation, and Scooter Libby, a former top aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
He’s also reportedly thinking of pardoning former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is serving 14 years for attempting to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama when Obama became president, and Martha Stewart, a fashion and homemaking impresario convicted of insider trading in what Trump and others believe to be a politically motivated prosecution.
“Presidents have a basically unlimited power to pardon anyone they want,” Vox wrote. “In the past, some presidents abused this power – to the point that the process has been reformed in recent decades. But Trump is ignoring that process and seemingly using his power to play favorites and reward allies, even if it means going against his own policy agenda.”
The Vox writer, German Lopez, wrote that the pardons of Arpaio and D’Souza are more defensible because Trump “could carve out some excuses … (such as his argument that Arpaio and D’Souza were treated unfairly due to political bias), but the Johnson move is a naked attempt to reward a perceived political ally, Kardashian.”
If Trump were to be consistent, pardoning Johnson should be the last thing on his mind, Lopez argued. “Trump has said that the federal government should execute drug dealers and traffickers in response to the opioid epidemic,” he wrote. “Johnson, as someone who helped run a cocaine trafficking ring, should fit the bill for Trump’s vision of the death penalty.”
President Obama had a better system, Lopez wrote. He “did not just call up his buddies to figure out whom he should grant relief or pick out a single sympathetic, high-profile case.”
Instead, he created an unresponsive bureaucracy that let out more than 1,900 drug dealers but somehow left this model prisoner, great-grandmother and mentor to other prisoners behind bars.
Lopez and others simultaneously have argued Trump is getting out of hand with his pardons. The Washington Post claims, based on anonymous sources, that Trump is even actively asking for suggestions on people to pardon.
As Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) said in a tweet, Trump has granted clemency to seven people; Obama to 1,927 people and Presidents Reagan, Carter and both Bushes 1,708 combined.
“Under Trump’s approach, people who don’t have close personal ties to the president won’t have their voices heard seemingly at all,” Lopez concluded. “So all the thousands of people in federal prison for nonviolent drug crimes will continue to suffer – never getting the relief that a fairer system could afford them.”