Donald Trump already stated he would pardon most of the people convicted of crimes related to the Republican-led January 6th domestic terrorist attack on Congress attempting to keep him in power. His current main challenger for the GOP nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the same during a radio interview Thursday morning, saying he would compare them to how protestors from the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, which he claims “didn’t get prosecuted at all,” according to the Washington Post, and he would issue pardons to make sure justice was meted out equally. (Put aside the fact that the protests would’ve broken largely local, not federal, laws; contemporaneous estimates put the number of people arrested in the first two weeks of BLM protests at 14,000 to 17,000, so Ron’s lying.)
Don’t miss the dog whistle: Pledging to pardon anyone convicted in connection with the various plots and actions to overturn the results of the 2020 election is telling your army that the GOP’s got their back: break as many laws as you want to keep us in power; you’ll never be held responsible. And a President who would pardon the convicted criminals from the previous election will pardon the presumptive criminals from not just this, but from every future election that goes his way. The last act of a future outgoing Republican president could be signing a pardon that wipes the slate clean for himself and, well, literally anyone–one so loosely worded it would take a decade of court challenges to determine its legality, long past the statute of limitations for most applicable crimes and impeding investigations along the way.
Questions about pardoning January 6th criminals should be answered with a demure “I can’t say without looking at each case individually.” Maybe even add, “…but from what I’ve seen about this specific case in the media, I think it needs to be reviewed.” That won’t happen, of course, but a promise of a blanket pardon is simply signaling to the violent base of the GOP that they can do anything for the Party–maybe even including hanging Mike Pence, although we’ll never know.
When the question comes up again–and it will–journalists need to delve into specifics. What charges would be too much: assault on an officer? Defacing a public building? Carrying or using weapons? Ask about specific well-known cases. Ask about Stewart Rhodes: Would Candidate X pardon the head of the Oath Keepers? Would s/he grant clemency? Listen to the dog whistle: “We got your back. The law doesn’t apply to you.”