Release: Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Atlanta, GA – In a revealing interview with NPR today, Newt Gingrich explained what the American people can expect from a Trump presidency.
On Trump’s often-stated promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington
I’m told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn’t want to use it anymore. … I’d written what I thought was a very cute tweet about “the alligators are complaining,” and somebody wrote back and said they were tired of hearing this stuff. …
On Trump essentially saying “trust me” about how he’ll deal with conflicts of interest
That will not last. This is not a country that wanders around trusting people with power. This is a country that wants accountability.
On Gingrich’s suggestion that Trump could use the power of the pardon if anyone in his administration seemed to be violating conflict-of-interest laws or protocols
The Constitution gives the president of the United States an extraordinarily wide grant of authority to use the power of the pardon. I’m not saying he should. I’m not saying he will. It also allows a president in a national security moment to say to somebody, “Go do X,” even if it’s technically against the law, and, “Here’s your pardon because I am ordering you as commander-in-chief to go do this.”
The suggested use of pardons as a “get out of jail free card” for ethics violations and conflicts of interest has already set off alarm bells on both sides of the aisle. From Politico:
But it was Gingrich’s suggestion that Trump could sidestep potential problems inside his administration — through his constitutional right to issue pardons — that prompted an incredulous reply from the NPR program’s host and two of her guests.
“That level of authority strikes me as rather broad and perhaps ought to be in the hands of Congress rather than within his own hands,” said Rehm, who is set to retire at the end of this week after a more than 30-year run.
“Speaker Gingrich’s statement that wealth trumps the rule of law, basically that’s what he was saying, is jaw-dropping,” added American University government professor James Thurber. “I can’t believe it. He’s a historian. He should also know that we did not want to have a king. A king in this case is somebody with a lot of money who cannot abide by the rule of law.”
Richard Painter, a former George W. Bush White House ethics lawyer, said Gingrich was off on his reading of the Constitution. “If the pardon power allows that, the pardon power allows the president to become a dictator, and even Richard Nixon had the decency to wait for his successor to hand out the pardon that he received for his illegal conduct,” Painter said. “We’re going down a very, very treacherous path if we go with what Speaker Gingrich is saying, what he is suggesting.”
Then again, what other position on conflicts of interest are we to expect from Gingrich?
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