For six frustrating years, Obama has tried to be Legislator in Chief focusing his energy almost exclusively on the areas where his enemies could frustrate him, while ignoring the vast Executive Powers of the Presidency.
But perhaps with his discovery of his powers over immigration, and a new Attorney General coming in with the nomination of Loretta Lynch to succeed outing AG Eric Holder, the President might unleash the awesome power of the Justice Department’s prosecutorial discretion.
As a practical matter, the law is what the Justice Department decides to prosecute. Anti-trust law wasn’t enforced for decades after its passage, and has languished again since the eighties because of the decisions inside the Department. One of the biggest disappointments for progressives has been Eric Holder’s continuation and extension of the Bush Justice Department – from not bringing a single criminal prosecution of a major financial institution, to extending and expanding the national security state.
But if his replacement by AG Lynch decided to use the Department’s full power, she could:
Criminally Prosecute the Banksters
Under Eric Holder the Department has had a “Too Big to Prosecute” policy regarding bringing criminal charges against large financial institutions no matter what they have done. Before leaving the Clinton Justice Dept for a Wall St. law firm, AG Holder actually wrote a memo giving the intellectual underpinnings for that policy. Perhaps with him gone, misdeeds by large financial institutions can be criminal again.
Although the statute of limitations has run out on a lot of the crimes that led to the financial collapse; and because they weren’t prosecuted those institutions have continued their patterns of criminality. Additionally, because they have not even complied with the “sin no more” clauses of their “pay a fine, but admit no wrongdoing” wrist-slap settlements, they have reopened themselves to prosecution.
The Pardon Power is explicitly granted to the President by the Constitution, and is unreviewable by Congress or the Courts. So why does only George Washington (who as the first President didn’t have any backlog of Federal prisoners to work with), and the two Presidents who died in the first few months after inauguration, have a worse record than President Obama in pardoning prisoners and commuting sentences?