President Biden should immediately offer Trump an unconditional pardon | Opinion

We in the general public still know very little about what prompted the search of former President Donald Trump‘s home at Mar-a-Largo. So far, only the search warrant and a list of items seized have been publicly released, while the affidavit that convinced a magistrate to issue the warrant is still under seal. But given how unprecedented this search was, we must assume that President Trump is facing a likely indictment, perhaps for numerous felonies, by the very administration that he is expected to face off against in the 2024 election.

To head off the disaster of being criminally prosecuted by his political opponent, President Joe Biden should offer Trump an unconditional pardon immediately—and announce that he will not seek reelection.

Most Democrats will no doubt reject this idea out of hand. I myself find the thought of pardoning Trump for crimes most anyone else would do serious prison time for to be appalling. And yet, should President Biden use the power of his presidency to preemptively pardon Trump, this would stave off the potential violence of a Trump indictment without putting Trump above the law; after all, presidents pardon people all the time. It doesn’t erase the fact of their guilt.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden answers a question as President Donald Trump listens during the second and final presidential debate at Belmont University on October 22, 2020.
Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Images)

Moreover, while we tend to embrace a retributive form of justice here in the United States, an equally valid approach focuses instead on restoration. Rather than trying to get an eye for an eye, we can instead seek solutions that leave us all better off in the wake of a wrongdoing.

Given the well-justified fear of societal violence that could come on the heels of an indictment of President Trump, I genuinely can’t fathom how we as a society would not be best served by a pardon that would prevent any such upheaval.

Even if Trump truly committed some of the most serious crimes possible under the Espionage Act, there is no reality where the vast majority of his supporters will see his prosecution as anything other than a partisan witch-hunt. Democrats, in insisting he be charged and tried, would be sacrificing what’s undoubtedly in the best interest of the nation as a whole for the satisfaction of seeing Trump indicted.

A caveat to this modest proposal is that pardons must be accepted by those they are offered to; they cannot be unilaterally imposed by the President against the will of the recipient. Given that the Supreme Court itself once held that accepting a pardon is an admission of guilt, one could easily envision Trump rejecting a preemptive pardon on this basis alone.

Yet, given Trump’s penchant for telling his own truth and his past musing of issuing a self-pardon, there is every chance he would accept a pardon when the alternative might well be a long, grueling, expensive, and high stakes criminal trial.

But the pardon is not enough. President Biden must accompany his offer of a pardon with an announcement that he will not seek a second term. President Biden stepping aside after his term ends is already something the vast majority of the public wants, even within the Democratic Party. But doing so would also immediately hollow out any and all accusations that Biden offering Trump a pardon is a calculated political maneuver to benefit himself.

The President should stipulate that while the pardon he’s offering Trump is unconditional, he nevertheless hopes that his predecessor will follow suit in ending his pursuit of any political office, instead choosing to make way for new leadership in the country—something majorities in both parties agree is necessary.

This would allow President Biden to truly become the transitional statesman he campaigned as in 2020. It might also make him one of the best presidents of the modern era.

Nicholas Creel is an assistant professor of business law at Georgia College and State University.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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