Not Baffling at All (Headline Reaction)

Trump's pardon offer is just another way to propagate the big lies about the election and 1/6.

Via CNN: Trump’s January 6 pardon pledge baffles some attorneys:

Donald Trump‘s pledge to pardon January 6 rioters may help fire up his supporters, but several defendants facing federal charges say they no longer believe the former President’s promises. 

Even defendants who are holding out hope for clemency are clinging to a false hope. Most of their cases are likely to be resolved in court long before the 2024 presidential election. This week alone, following Trump’s comments, seven people have cut guilty plea deals. “What we have learned from the year that has gone by, is that my clients, apart from their families and their lawyers who are representing them, is that no help is coming,” Joe McBride, a lawyer representing five riot defendants, including ones in jail, told CNN. 

“It is us, and we’re going to have to make do with what we’ve got,” he added.

Clearly, the headline writer didn’t soak up the clarity in the first paragraph of the story quoted above. Trump is floating this idea not because he has any intention of carrying out such pardons should he find himself in the White House again. It is all for show and to hype up the crowds.

Although the piece still contains this rather remarkable line:

The idea that Trump could pardon January 6 defendants doesn’t even make logical sense to some of the attorneys.

You don’t say? Indeed, the suggestion that it might make logical sense to any attorney strains credulity.

But, more significantly, these promises are part of the wider web of lies being spun about 2020. Lies that are corrupting our politics. For example, a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor in Alabama is explicitly claiming in a commercial that the election was “stolen from Trump” as opposed to more coded calls for “election integrity.” That is pure corrosion.

As is this:

In the past week, Trump said the January 6 defendants are being treated unfairly, while teasing a 2024 presidential run and suggesting he would pardon rioters if he were reelected.

“If it requires pardons, we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly,” Trump said during a Texas rally over the weekend. 

Trump repeated the promise in an interview with Newsmax on Tuesday, saying, “I would absolutely give them a pardon” and calling the punishment “20 times out of proportion. These people are being persecuted.”

Self-serving cynicism that does nothing but inculcate baseless lies and embed distrust of valid electoral processes will damage us all. (And while I recognize most everyone who reads this understands this, it seemed worth noting just in case someone hasn’t caught on yet).

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, 2024 Election, US Politics, , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Hal_10000 says:

    What’s very telling is that this springs from the idea that the Jan 6 defendants are being treated “unfairly”. In fact, they are getting the rough treatment that everyone in the criminal justice system does. It’s only when it happens to “their people” that the Republicans can be bothered to notice.

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Trump is also telling his brown (orange?) shirts that he’ll absolve them of any actions they take on his behalf to return him to office.

  3. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Such as armed insurrection, I assume.

  4. Kathy says:

    Granted trumpish is an alien, irrational language, but we’ve had enough experience with it to make sense of it.

    Given Little Benito could have issued a blanket pardon at any time he chose between the evening of January 6th and the morning of January 20th 2021, we can translate the remarks into English as:

    “People who kiss my asa re not to be held accountable, if I can derive any benefit from it. And if I can benefit, I’ll issue them a pardon (I get as many pardons as I want for free, right? Are you sure I can’t sell them? Check again).”

  5. gVOR08 says:

    It’s prima facia obstruction and witness tampering. You can argue all you want about whether he really means it and whether his supporters and minions are dumb enough to believe it, but it is what it is.

  6. Sleeping Dog says:



  7. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Well, that will encourage them.

  8. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    it seemed worth noting just in case someone hasn’t caught on yet).

    @JKB, you out there? Buddy? Hello?

    Or did you get banned while I was at the beach yesterday?

  9. Kurtz says:

    Meanwhile, in Tennessee, a woman gets six years plus one day in prison for illegally registering to vote. She never got to cast a ballot. She joins others who received significant prison time for violating confusing state election laws which interact with federal voting laws and a byzantine criminal justice system. They have several things in common, one of which can be gleaned by mere glimpse.

    Contrast that to a few other recent cases in which people requested absentee ballots for dead relatives and used them to vote multiple times. Of the three I know of, only one was incarcerated . . . for a total of one day. These people have at least two things in common, one of which can be gleaned by mere glimpse. The other is that they voted Republican.

    Storming the Capitol building with the intent to disrupt the transition of power after a fair election is worthy of grants of clemency or pardons.

    For those keeping score,

    Failing to successfully navigate the labyrinth of two bodies of arcane law is much worse than intentionally and knowingly committing identity theft and electoral fraud is worse than violating a bunch of law in order to stop a democratic process.

    Maybe Douthat should stop and think before he writes op-eds arguing that the left is just as guilty of anti-democratic tendencies as the right.

  10. gVOR08 says:


    Maybe Douthat should stop and think

    OK, I guess there could be first time for anything.

    Always remember that when Bill Kristol’s lying got to be too much even for the editorial page NYT went on a major effort to find the best conservative writer they could to replace him. And after an exhaustive search they had to settle for Douthat. Should tell you something about conservatives.