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Trump’s embrace of Jan. 6 defendant shows pardon power — and danger

On the day Mike Pence finally testified to the Jan. 6 grand jury, Trump comforted a Jan. 6 defendant, saying she’d end up “happy.”


Thursday presented an already powerfully Trumpian split screen, with writer E. Jean Carroll testifying in New York that the former president raped her, while Mike Pence finally testified to the grand jury in Washington that’s investigating the Donald Trump-backed plot that culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

Adding to the gravity of these historic events of the day was Trump’s literal embrace, while campaigning in New Hampshire, of a woman convicted of resisting police efforts to clear the grounds after the insurrection.

The Republican 2024 hopeful told her: “You guys are gonna be okay.”

In almost any other context, those words from a former and potential future president could be normal, even endearing. But in the context of the world we’re living in, Trump’s words served as the latest reminder that he can instantly pardon any and all Jan. 6 defendants if he retakes the White House.

Such pardons would be legal — presidents are vested with vast clemency authority — but whether they’d also undermine the rule of law is another question.

It’s an important reminder not only as we await a verdict in the Proud Boys seditious conspiracy trial, but for cases like the misdemeanor conviction of the woman Trump hugged in New Hampshire, Micki Larson-Olson, a member of QAnon splinter group Negative48, who has called for executing members of Congress who certified the 2020 election for President Joe Biden.

Trump told Larson-Olson, who was sentenced to 180 days in jail last year, that she’d “been through too much” and would end up “happy.”

That the former and potential future president literally embraced his mob on the day that his vice president, whom that mob wanted to kill, testified in the investigation into Trump’s plot to hold power by extralegal means, does well to encapsulate the man who’s sought and will seek to bend or break the law to his will.