Bush Will Issue a Mass Pardon

Before leaving office George W. Bush will issue a mass pardon, the largest collection of presidential pardons in American history. Bush will pardon himself, Vice President Cheney, and a long list of officials involved in torture, eavesdropping, destruction of evidence, the CIA leak case and a range of potential crimes.

As George Bush signs the pardons and boards the helicopter to depart Washington as his presidency finally ends, even then, he and those pardoned will worry about the statute of limitations.

There is an important point to this, often not recognized in official Washington during the Bush years, where the unthinkable becomes a way of life, and acts have been done that have never been done by an American president or administration.

Torture violates international law, domestic law, statutory law, customary law, American law, European law — the list goes on.

Eavesdropping without court order violates a statute, FISA, that includes severe criminal penalties. If the courts ultimately conclude that these laws were broken, as I predict they ultimately will, considering the number of individual violations, and the penalties for each violation, the potential sentencing liability for anyone convicted would be huge.

On the destruction of evidence, disappearing e-mails, claims of executive privilege that I predict will be clearly rejected by the Supreme Court after Bush has departed, arguably false testimony to Congress, attempts to cover up actions that violate the law, the list, again, goes on.

There will be a huge legal debate about the ability of a president to issue pardons so sweeping in their language that they cover all these potential areas of legal liability, and very possibly, it cannot be done.

As we approach the election, leaks will increase as they did prior to the 2006 election, from within the administration, about these matters and others. Legal scholars will debate the legality of a mass pardon.

Congress should pursue every pending and possible legal challenge to claims of executive privilege so completely untenable under the law that even some conservative Supreme Court justices will refuse to uphold them, as conservative justices joined liberals ruling against Richard M. Nixon.

I predict a series of historic Supreme Court cases that will defeat most of the Bush executive privilege claims and permanently end attempts for royalist interpretations of the law that the Bush years embody.

The fact that Bush attempted to seize power in ways that negate the legislative and judicial branches of government, and the fact that Congress was not heroic in defending its rightful place in the separation of powers, do not change the fact that what is illegal is illegal.

This is not merely a liberal issue. There are many authentic conservatives, true Barry Goldwater Republicans, genuine libertarians, honorable strict constructionist conservative jurists and legal scholars who agree entirely that on occasions George Bush has attempted and at times executed seizures of executive power that violate the American Constitution and American statutes.

Get ready for mass pardons.

Get ready for the long-held precedents of American law to be ultimately if belatedly upheld as spurious claims of executive privilege, to be be rejected even by some conservative justices of the Supreme Court.

Get ready for a long-overdue debate that has barely begun and will be triggered by the mass pardons that will be the last sorry act of the presidency of George W. Bush.

Because it will be legally almost impossible to issue mass pardons so sweeping and universal they would cover every possible offense, get ready for the words "statute of limitations" to enter our public dialogue by January of 2009 as a new president assumes office and the Bush years, finally, are over.

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