Mr. Trump’s final official acts added to the malodor, as he granted clemency to a raft of corrupt cronies, former officials and white-collar criminals. Stephen K. Bannon, the alt-right provocateur and one of the intellectual architects of Mr. Trump’s reactionary populism, got a pardon. He was charged last summer with defrauding donors to his We Build the Wall project, allegedly using $1 million for personal expenses after saying the money would go to construct sections of Mr. Trump’s promised border barrier.
Mr. Trump got Elliott Broidy, a 2016 Trump fundraiser, off the hook for his role in a foreign influence scheme. Convicted insider trader William T. Walters got a commuted sentence after he hired Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer, the New York Times reports. Mr. Trump pardoned three Republican former members of the House convicted of crimes such as bribery and lying to the FBI, and he commuted the sentence of Kwame Kilpatrick, the corrupt former mayor of Detroit.
Among the white-collar criminals on the list was Sholam Weiss, who shamelessly stole millions from an insurance company in a spectacular financial fraud, leading to the company’s collapse. Mr. Weiss skipped town before his verdict, forcing federal officers to track him across continents. Of the inmates in federal prison, he is among the least deserving.
Then there was the granting of clemency to Lil Wayne, the rapper who pleaded guilty in December to a federal gun charge after authorities found a gold-plated Glock in a private jet he had traveled on. What might explain this seemingly puzzling act of mercy? The rapper endorsed Mr. Trump shortly before last November’s election.
Throughout his tenure, Mr. Trump treated the powers of the presidency as tools to help his friends and punish his enemies. So it was on his way out. His final pardons and commutations represent one last expression of contempt for the justice system — indeed for the very concept of justice. His refusal to participate in the peaceful transition of power revealed his disrespect for, his lack of understanding of, democracy. On his final day, Mr. Trump demeaned the presidency one more time.