As special counsel Robert Mueller pushes forward with the investigation into Russian election meddling, conservative voices calling upon President Donald Trump to pardon those already implicated are growing louder and increasing in number.
“I think he should be pardoning anybody who’s been indicted and make it clear that anybody else who gets indicted would be pardoned immediately,” said Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA analyst and senior vice president at the conservative Center for Security Policy.
“It’s kind of cruel what’s going on right now and the president should put these defendants out of their misery,” said Larry Klayman, a conservative legal activist. “I think he should pardon everybody — and pardon himself.”
Though four former members of the Trump campaign have been indicted - former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos - Mueller's most recent indictment was against Russians, with the acknowledgment that any Trump campaign members mentioned were but unwitting participants.
Some, including the president and his son, are using those indictments to cast doubt on the whole of Mueller's quest to rule out collusion.
But some conservatives perceive an intense political backlash should Trump choose to pardon anyone indicted by Mueller, especially during an election year, and have suggested the president tread carefully.
Even some conservatives who support pardons in principle are wary of the severe political backlash they are certain to trigger. Mike Cernovich, a prominent alt-right activist, said he believes the moment for pardons has passed and that Trump needs to wait until after the November mid-term elections.
“If the Democrats take over, pardon everyone,” Cernovich said. “They’re coming for you anyway. They have their nuke with impeachment. You have your nuke with pardons. And then settle in for an interesting two years.”