In each of three pardons President Donald Trump has issued since taking office, his justification for doing so has been virtually the same: The convictions were not “fair.”
“He was treated very unfairly by our government!” the president said in May after pardoning the far-right commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted in 2014 for campaign-finance violations. “I have heard that he has been treated very unfairly,” Trump said in April after pardoning Scooter Libby, the chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in the Valerie Plame leak investigation. “Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration,” Trump announced a year ago following his pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who had been convicted for violating a 2011 court order to stop traffic patrols aimed at immigrants. Trump has made similar comments about the trial and conviction of his former campaign chief Paul Manafort. “It’s a witch hunt and a disgrace,” Trump said of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which had led to Manafort’s conviction on Tuesday. “I feel badly for Paul Manafort, I must tell you.”
His comments have raised questions about whether the pardon pattern will hold for Manafort. But there are important differences: Manafort, unlike D’Souza, Libby, and Arpaio, has no clear allies around Trump who have been pushing him to pardon the longtime GOP operative. The White House policy adviser Stephen Miller reportedly pushed hard for an Arpaio pardon, while Republican Senator Ted Cruz personally lobbied Trump on a pardon for D’Souza. The Fox News commentators Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing—lawyers close to the White House who almost joined Trump’s legal team—were early champions for a Libby pardon.