As president of the United States – at least, for 49 more days – Donald Trump retains the power to pardon anyone of a federal crime in “one of the weirdest quirks of being an American president”, said Trevor Noah, “sort of like a cheat code for America’s criminal justice system.
“And it looks like President Trump is going to spend the next two months mashing those buttons,” the Daily Show host continued, as Trump has reportedly considered issuing pre-emptive pardons for his three eldest children, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, none of whom have been charged with a crime.
Trump is promising pardons like he’s handing out gift cards: "You can pick out your own crime. Enjoy!” pic.twitter.com/5TJOPdyxCQ
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) December 3, 2020
“Aw, guys, that is adorable. Trump is pardoning his kids and his house pets,” Noah joked, referring to Giuliani. “And he’s not even pardoning them for anything specific. Trump is just handing out pardons like they’re gift cards.”
In another layer to a scandal sandwich, the Department of Justice revealed an investigation into a bribery scheme for presidential pardons. Basically, Noah explained, “Trump managed to shove one of his scandals in the middle of another scandal. So impressive.”
Unsealed documents from the investigation reveal someone, name redacted, contributed a large sum of money to the Trump campaign in exchange for a presidential pardon; it is not clear if Trump pardoned the person in question, considered a pardon, or even if he knew about the contribution. “We don’t know what Trump did,” said Noah, but “after knowing Trump for this long, I think we can assume that my man is not gonna turn down some pardon cash. If anything, I think we should be impressed that he hasn’t started targeting Instagram ads to former felons.”
On the Late Show, Stephen Colbert replayed an emotional, bracing speech from Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who oversaw the implementation of a new voting system in Georgia, in which he decried the president’s refusal to rein in his supporters and pleaded with Trump to “stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence”.
The speech went viral, and Sterling “was praised for his courage, his clarity and his call to civility”, said Colbert. “The President heard that … and popped open a can of ‘suck it’.” On Wednesday afternoon, Trump posted a conspiracy theory-filled rant on Facebook – “no press, no questions, not even the mediating lower third graphics of cable news,” Colbert explained. “Just uncut blue-flake crazy packed into a straw and blown right into the brain stem of the kamikaze Maga dead-enders.”
Colbert described the video as “just another rambling mass of lies that lasted a full 46 minutes” that should’ve been released on Thanksgiving, “not because he said anything worth hearing, but at least the people who canceled a big family Thanksgiving could’ve pretended they were still eating with their racist uncle.”
At one point in his rant, Trump demonstrated a “surprising amount of self-awareness”, in revealing “even knew how poorly his stupidity would be received” – “Even what I’m saying now will be demeaned and disparaged, but that’s OK,” said the president.
“Well, as long as it’s OK, you’re a petty, angry man desperate for validation you will never receive and have never deserved,” Colbert snapped. “And in 50 days, you’ll be out of the White House without the protections of executive power, and no court is going to uphold you pardoning yourself.”
As of Tuesday, all contested states had certified their election results, cementing Biden’s victory. “And yet, still, still Republicans are terrified to speak that basic truth,” Colbert said, pointing to Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson, who admitted in a phone call with a reporter that he knew Biden had won but saying so publicly would be “political suicide”.
“Really? I would say the real political suicide is refusing to distance yourself from a president who has lost and is willing to destroy democracy and your party out of spite,” Colbert responded. “It’s like the GOP is saying, ‘hey, let’s play hands on a hard body on this running pickup inside this closed garage – do not open the door to let oxygen in. That would be political suicide and it would hurt the truck’s feelings.’”
And in Los Angeles, Jimmy Kimmel recapped a less-than-safe Christmas gathering at the White House, where numerous guests attended the indoor event without masks. Trump “told revelers it’s been an amazing four years,” Kimmel reported, “which is a sentiment shared only by white supremacists and the guys who make money impersonating him on cameo”.
“All anyone at the White House wants for Christmas this year is a pardon,” Kimmel added, gesturing to reports that the president was considering pre-emptive pardons for his children “for whatever crimes they may or may not have committed”.
“Usually, presidents grant pardons after they’ve been vetted very carefully by the justice department,” Kimmel explained. “Trump is shooting them out of a T-shirt cannon right now.”