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Hunter Biden, Donald Trump Should Be Pardoned, Their Sentences Commuted

united states presidency campaign politics

Oct. 22, 2020: Then-U.S. President Donald Trump and then-Democratic Presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. (Various Sources/AFP/Brendan Smialowski/Jim Watson/Morry Gash/AFP/Pool) 

Lanny Davis By Thursday, 20 June 2024 02:35 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

(Editor's Note: The following opinion column appears first and foremost on, and used with the permission of the author.)

There is much to differentiate between the respective felony trials of Hunter Biden and Donald Trump.

For starters, even Trump supporters should agree that Hunter Biden’s crime — that he falsely stated on a gun purchase form that he was not using controlled substances —  occurred in the middle of his addiction. It was not part of any planned criminal scheme, which is what a New York jury concluded in Trump’s case.

Nonetheless, the facts and circumstances underlying both convictions argue in favor of a pardon and commutation of prison terms, if any, for both men.

To his credit President Biden has already stated he would neither pardon nor commute the sentence of his son.

However, if Trump happens to win the November election, his supporters with family members who have suffered the effects of addiction should support Hunter Biden’s pardon and commutation of any imprisonment sentence imposed on him.

I once wrote a favorable review about Sen. J.D. Vance’s remarkable book, "Hillbilly Elegy," in which Vance recounted the ravages of addiction in his own family and local community in rural Ohio.

I would hope Ohio’s junior senator also weighs in supporting a pardon and commutation for Hunter Biden.

Trump’s case is much different, of course.

The former president is not an addict in any clinical sense, though a layman would say he’s addicted to attention.

That’s not a crime.

What is a crime is paying hush money prior to a campaign and then filing deceptive paperwork about it.

Trump and his acolytes have criticized Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prosecution as partisan.

I’ve explained in previous columns why I think that criticism is wrong, but Hunter Biden’s conviction in Delaware has moved the debate past that point — or, at least, it should have.

Trump supporters claim that the New York trial was tainted because of its very venue —  that the verdict was a result of a politically partisan jury pool (Manhattan County voted almost 80% for Biden over Trump in 2020).

But they can’t have it both ways.

Hunter Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware trial took place in a city just as Democratic — and in Hunter Biden’s hometown. If 10 citizens (presumably Joe Biden-voting jurors, based on the overwhelming Biden vote in Manhattan) were biased when they voted for guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, how does that explain the conduct of the Delaware jury?

It’s time for MAGA-style Republicans to accept both verdicts.

But now what? History provides a guide.

I was once angry with Gerald Ford when he pardoned Richard Nixon for his Watergate crimes days after assuming the presidency in 1974.

With the benefit of hindsight, I (and many leading historians) believe President Ford made the right decision. "Our long national nightmare is over," Mr. Ford said after taking the oath of office.

And in his wisdom, Ford realized that the healing process could never begin as long as Nixon’s behavior was the subject of criminal prosecutions. Since Donald Trump was tried and convicted, a cornerstone our democracy — the rule of law — has been upheld.

Incarcerating Trump would undermine that message by making him a martyr to his followers.

So now I recommend to President Biden he would show grace and the necessary deflating of the hyper-partisanship of the 2024 presidential campaign by announcing his support for a pardon and commutation for his opponent by Gov. Kathy Hochul, D-N.Y.

It’s not Biden’s decision to make, as it’s a state case, but I believe she would be receptive to the president’s entreaties, especially if he assured her privately of his sincerity.

And I would hope that Trump — were he to win in November — would personally pardon Hunter Biden. I also hope, fervently, that it doesn’t come to that.

There’s an irony here, however: A Trump pardon could forestall that disaster — it might actually help Biden politically.

Here’s my reasoning: Although Jerry Ford’s decision in 1974 was politically courageous, and right for the nation, it came with a steep political cost.

Ford almost certainly lost the 1976 presidential election because of the Nixon pardon.

But President Biden is in a different situation.

I believe that in this case the right thing for the country would also be politically popular, albeit not among most of his most vocal anti-Trump Democratic base. Donald Trump was indicted and convicted by a jury of his peers.

So, a fundamental principle of our Constitution — that no person is above the law — has been upheld.

By announcing his support for a Trump pardon, Joe Biden will also be upholding another fundamental principle: that the most important decision in our Republic — the election of the president of the United States — should be decided at the ballot box and not in a courtroom.

Lanny Davis is the founder of the Washington, D.C., law firm Lanny J. Davis & Associates. He is co-chair of the global public affairs and strategic communications firm Actum LLC. From 2018-2024 Davis served as a legal adviser to Michael Cohen. From 1996-98, Mr. Davis served as special White House counsel to President Bill Clinton. In 2006, he was appointed by President George W. Bush, to serve on a special post-9/11 White House panel to advise the president on privacy and civil liberties. He is the author of six books on politics, government, law, and crisis management. Read more of his reports Here.

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Trump and his acolytes have criticized Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prosecution as partisan. That criticism is wrong, but Hunter Biden’s conviction in Delaware has moved the debate past that point. Or, at least it should have.
ford, nixon, vance
Thursday, 20 June 2024 02:35 PM
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