For a defeated president, pardons as an expression of grievance

In complaining about “prosecutorial misconduct,” though, Trump seemed to be talking as much about himself as his allies. In the flurry of 49 pardons and commutations issued this week, he granted clemency to a host of convicted liars, crooked politicians and child-killing war criminals, but the throughline was a president who considers himself a victim of law enforcement and was using his power to strike back.

Never mind that Trump presents himself as a champion of “law and order.” He has been at war with the criminal justice system, at least when it has come to himself and his friends. And so in these final days in office, he is using the one all-but-absolute power vested in the presidency to rewrite the reality of his tenure by trying to discredit investigations into him and his compatriots and even absolving others he seems to identify with because of his own encounters with authorities…

As power inexorably slips from his grasp, the defeated president finds his pardon authority to be the one weapon he can deploy without any checks. It is the most kingly of powers conferred on a president by the Constitution, one that is entirely up to his discretion, requires no confirmation by Congress or the courts, and cannot be overturned.