It’s now officially an insult to authoritarian leaders in so-called banana republic third world countries to compare their usually covert corrupt governance to the blatant sewage that pervades the Trump administration.
The parade of cabinet-level officials who have been forced to resign — or, as in the case of Education Secretary Betsy Devos, have remained in office and face the possibility of a prison sentence — over their corrupt actions aside, the spate of pardons of criminals convicted of the very crimes that Donald Trump himself has been repeatedly accused of committing and the transparent political motivations behind those pardons far exceed the arrogance of any tinpot dictator.
Yes, Donald Trump is now the gold-plated standard for gilded tinpot dictators everywhere.
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Most of the pardons the president issued today went to corrupt politicians and financiers convicted of bribery, tax fraud, and lying to law enforcement officials, including such disgraced figures as former Illinois governor Blagojevich — a former Celebrity Apprentice contestant — Rudy Giuliani pal former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, and junk bond swindler Michael Milken. The one thing each of these figures has in common is that they or their advocates used appearances on Fox News to push for their presidential get out jail free card, as detailed by The Daily Beast in an article today.
The one pardon recipient who did not take the Fox News route to his freedom apparently still believes in using an old fashioned method to influence the president to deliver him to salvation from the shame of his crimes — cold hard cash — and it seems as if his strategy has paid off handsomely.
Paul Pogue is a Texas construction company owner who pleaded guilty to underpaying his taxes by $473,000 and received three years probation nearly 10 years ago. He went on to become a member of Rick Santorum’s national finance committee for his 2016 presidential campaign because what self-respecting Republican wouldn’t want an admitted tax fraudster looking after their fundraising?
Today, Pogue was issued a full pardon and clemency by the president and The Daily Beast poured through Federal Election Commission filings to discover that “Pogue’s family has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct contributions and in-kind air travel to the Trump Victory Committee. Beginning in August 2019, Ben Pogue—CEO of Pogue Construction and son of Paul Pogue—and his wife Ashleigh made over $200,000 in contributions to the campaign,” according to the online news site.
“In August alone, Ben Pogue donated $85,000 to Trump Victory while Ashleigh Pogue contributed $50,000 that month. The following month, Ben Pogue made an in-kind air travel contribution of $75,404.40. The couple also made several large donations to the Republican National Committee and each donated $5,600 to Donald Trump for President Inc.,” The Daily Beast writes.
“On the day of their first donation to the Trump campaign, Ashleigh posted an Instagram photo of her and her husband posing with Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, at the Hamptons,” the article continues.
Curiously, prior to the runup to today’s pardon, the Pogue family did not have a record of making such large political contributions, having donated less than six thousand dollars annually in 2016 and 2017 to former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and to Santorum.
While Donald Trump has long been seen as someone susceptible to being convinced to take unthinkably ridiculous actions to benefit himself politically, this is the first presidential move that seems more motivated by pecuniary recompense than by any attempt to score points with his base of right-wing fanatics.
It goes without saying that bribery and the extortion of bribes are impeachable offenses for any government official. It also goes without saying that Donald Trump will never be held accountable for any of his impeachable offenses by a Senate controlled by servile Republicans too frightened to stand up to the president’s corruption, particularly when they themselves continue to reap political rewards for their subservience.
That leaves the accountability in our own hands. Vote Trump and his corrupt Republican regime out of office in November or be ready to face even more blatant transactional perversions of justice.
Original reporting by Justin Baragona and Asawin Suebsaeng at The Daily Beast.