Napolitano hits back at Trump: He was the one who suggested a pardon for one of our mutual friends, not me

He seems surprised here to have been the target of a grumpy presidential tweet on Saturday night. How did he think Trump would react after his video accusing the president of obstruction of justice went viral?

Sheesh. One little accusation that your buddy committed a crime that would justify him being impeached and sent to prison and suddenly he doesn’t want to be friends anymore.

Whom do we believe about whether Napolitano “asked” Trump to appoint him to the Supreme Court, Trump or the judge? Politico reported more than two years ago that Napolitano had been telling friends that he was on the president’s Supreme Court shortlist, an unlikely possibility given his age and relatively limited experience (eight years as a state court judge in New Jersey). The fact that he was chattering excitedly about it to confidants suggests that he really was lobbying POTUS for the job, possibly believing — and not without reason — that in Trump’s eyes the highest legal credential one could achieve in the United States is professional law bloviator on Fox News. Napolitano’s account of his conversations with Trump in the clip below casts their chats in a different light, though. Supposedly Trump was sounding him out about Supreme Court appointments, Napolitano mentioned Gorsuch, and then Trump started nudging the judge to make the pitch for himself. That *does* sound Trumpy, partly ingratiating himself to his audience, partly enjoying the spectacle of a courtier asking him for a job. Napolitano might have walked out of there sincerely believing he was on the shortlist.

And you know what? Maybe he was, until Trump mentioned it to Don McGahn and Leonard Leo and they side-eyed each other and politely told him that they wouldn’t be doing that.

The dispute over the pardon is more interesting, especially since I feel like it should be relatively easy to figure out who their mutual acquaintance is. How many friends in common could Trump and Napolitano have who have been convicted of a federal crime? Anyway, Trump says the judge pitched him on pardoning their friend but Napolitano says it was more like the opposite, with the judge insisting that their friend had been justly convicted and Trump objecting. And then the judge says something interesting: “He said ‘You know this person as well as I do. Call this person up and tell this person he’s going to be on the list of pardons that I will seriously consider.’” That resembles some of the obstruction allegations in Mueller’s report, with Trump using go-betweens to carry messages and hinting at pardons for the likes of Paul Manafort while he was under pressure by the special counsel to cooperate. Anti-Trumpers on Twitter have noticed:

We can’t know if Trump was “dangling” a pardon until we know who their mutual friend was, though. “Dangling” in this context means using the prospect of a pardon to induce someone who’s in criminal jeopardy not to provide information to the feds. If John Doe has been indicted and possesses evidence that the president committed a crime, the president could try to get a message to him that his silence will earn him total freedom via a pardon. That would be obstruction, a corrupt quid pro quo to hide evidence from the DOJ. But without knowing who John Doe is here, there’s no reason to think he had dirt on Trump or on anyone else. In fact, based on Napolitano’s recollection that he and Trump had these conversations during the transition period after the election, it’s a cinch that John Doe isn’t connected to Russiagate. Trump was probably just looking to impress his courtier, deputizing Napolitano to remind their friend that Trump would soon have the supreme power to dissolve his criminal record. There’s no reason to believe there was a quid pro quo.

Although it’d be nice to know who John Doe is so that we could be sure.

Shot in the dark here: Could John Doe be Charles Kushner, father of Jared? The Kushners operated in New Jersey for many years, which is where Napolitano is from. Kushner was famously sent to prison for tax evasion and other charges by Chris Christie when he was a U.S. Attorney in New Jersey; Christie’s role in that led to Jared bearing him a grudge, which is why Christie doesn’t work in the White House to this day. Trump’s opinion that John Doe was convicted on a BS charge sounds suspiciously like Jared’s view of his father’s conviction. I can’t find any evidence by googling that Napolitano and Charles Kushner are friends but they both move in Trump’s circle.

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Jazz Shaw 5:31 PM on December 01, 2022