America’s first reality TV-star president just handed out America’s first game show-style presidential pardon.
President Trump made television history on Tuesday night by literally pardoning a convicted bank robber right there on national TV in the middle of the Republican National Convention.
Trump has busted all kinds of norms during his unorthodox second presidential convention this week, which still has two more nights to go. But he outdid himself Tuesday: Pardoning a dude on national TV, in a move Trump framed as a surprise, was wild stuff even for Trump.
The moment, played on a pre-recorded clip during the convention, began normally enough.
Trump stood awkwardly between a felon-turned-activist named Jon Ponder and the FBI officer who arrested him, Richard Beasly. Trump has previously praised Ponder for founding a group called Hope For Prisoners, which helps former prisoners enter society.
The trio delivered pleasant remarks about how Ponder discovered the bible in prison befriended Beasly after his release.
Then, as the scene drew to a close, Trump summoned all the powers of his reality TV background, and made the scene truly, deeply, historically bizarre.
The president leaned toward Ponder and said he had something special for him.
“So now I’d like to invite John’s wife, Jamie, to join us, as I grant Jon — I’m not sure you know this — a full pardon,” Trump said. “So I don’t know if you know that, Jamie. Come on over here. It’s just an honor.”
Ponder lowered his head.
“You have done incredible work,” Trump intoned.
“Thank you sir,” he said.
Trump then scrawled his cartoonish, oversized signature on a big, fat presidential pardon.
The move carried all the strange pomp of Trump’s freewheeling presidency, in which norms and rules have been flaunted and pardons have been passed around like priceless Christmas presents to Trump’s supporters.
Critics argue Trump has bent the criminal justice system to protect and reward his friends while targeting his enemies. Just weeks ago, Trump pardoned Roger Stone, his former longtime political advisor, who pointedly refused to give investigators any negative information about Trump during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Cover: President Trump issued a full pardon to a two-time convicted felon on TV on August 25, 2020 on the second day of the Republican National Convention. (Republican National Committee)