President Obama should pardon Hillary Clinton as his last act – it would do Donald Trump a huge favour

A pardon for Clinton would be the least the executive branch could proffer to her. It is a matter of natural justice. Without one the email allegations will politicise the judicial process

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The Independent Online

A few days ago, Jesse Jackson called for President Obama to grant Hillary Clinton a pardon for crimes she may or may not have committed. It follows some deft sidestepping of the question by White House spokespeople about what the President might do. You get the impression that Obama doesn't really want to, but that he might have to if Donald Trump or his allies look like embarking on another hate campaign.

The safest and best thing all round would be for Mr Obama to go ahead and openly front up his decision.

All agree even President-elect Trump agrees that America has been through a difficult year, culminating in the most bitter presidential election in living memory. All agree, in Donald Trump's words, that the time has come to bind the nation's wounds. Well, we know one way to bind one of those wounds: a presidential pardon for Hillary Clinton.

The advantages of such a move for the American people are clear.

First, it would help finally close the chapter on that presidential election. The arguments about that are still going on, and especially about what the damage to Hillary Clinton's campaign was. She herself has said it stopped her momentum.

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Now the retiring (but not shy) Democratic Party minority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, says of FBI director James Comey: "He can be fat and happy in his office, having thrown the election to Donald Trump. If he feels good about that that's nice. There is no question in my mind she would have won this election without any problem if Comey had not been the Republican operative that he is." The interventions of Comey were certainly controversial, and arguably unjust, even if in the end they were effectively retracted.

Following that, a pardon for Clinton would be the least the executive branch could proffer to her. It is a matter of natural justice. Without a pardon these allegations about emails and the Clinton Foundation will politicise the judicial process. Neither is in the national interest.

Second, a pardon by President Obama might do Trump a huge favour by relieving the Republican of a clear campaign commitment to appoint a special prosecutor to go after her. Now that Trump has bigger things to worry about, it might suit him to have Hillary cleared away. He doesn't even need to criticise the President too harshly. America can move on, and Obama's broad shoulders can shoulder the blame. Ideally, a magnanimous President Trump would in due course drop the Hillary thing, but that would expose him too deeply to the charge of hypocrisy.

Third, there are good and bad precedents for such a political pardon. Bill Clinton and George W Bush issued some rapid and controversial pardons for their associates, not least vice-president Cheney's aide Scooter Libby, who was actually convicted of his misdemeanours.

A more distant and, I suspect, nowadays widely accepted example, was the pardon granted by President Ford to his predecessor. The parallels with Nixon are far from precise, but Gerry Ford's words in a TV address in 1974 echo powerfully today: "During this long period of delay and potential litigation, ugly passions would again be aroused. And our people would again be polarised in their opinions. And the credibility of our free institutions of government would again be challenged at home and abroad...In the end the courts might well hold that Richard Nixon had been denied due process, and the verdict of history would be even more inconclusive...My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed."

America would do well to close the chapter of the 2016 election once and for all. Hillary Clinton, and the US, has suffered more than enough.

It could be that in the delicate Obama-Trump transition, including Trump’s generous words about Secretary Clinton's public service, there has been an effective but secret agreement to drop the Hillary thing. Who knows, and it would be justified; but an open pardon, fully justified would be a better method of closure. It would be the last brave, statesmanlike act of many from President Obama.