Back in 1787, when the Constitutional Convention was drafting the part of the Constitution that would soon become the presidential pardon power, Mason unequivocally opposed the provision. The president, he said, “ought not to have the power of pardoning, because he may frequently pardon crimes which were advised by himself. It may happen, at some future day, that he will establish a monarchy, and destroy the republic. If he has the power of granting pardons before indictment, or conviction, may he not stop inquiry and prevent detection?”
Just so. Obviously, Mason never met Trump. But clearly he had someone like Trump in mind. Trump’s pardon of Manafort and Stone, especially when added to his pardons of Michael Flynn, is of exactly the sort Mason feared—in which an apparent connection exists between the president’s personal acts and those of the people whose crimes he has excused. Manafort, Stone, and Flynn, in different ways, were connected to Trump and allegations of criminality. Their pardons may, in part, be rewards for their refusal to help in holding Trump to account—at least that is how it appears to many observers.