Will Obama pardon Hillary if the FBI refers to Justice?

The FBI is getting closer to finishing its criminal investigation of Hillary’s decision to use a personal email server to send and receive emails that included classified material.  If the FBI decides that Hillary or some of her aides have committed a crime, it will make a referral to the Justice Department under Attorney General Loretta Lynch for prosecution.  During that time period, when Justice is weighing a prosecution, Obama may decide, for purely political reasons, to pre-empt the Justice Department’s prosecutorial discretion and pardon Hillary and perhaps some or all of her aides instead.

Since his recent endorsement of Hillary for president, Obama has staked his entire legacy on her candidacy, and it becomes less likely that Joe Biden can be tapped to replace her.  Hillary has the momentum, money, and organization, whereas Biden has none of these.  If Obama’s legacy is going to survive, he needs to keep Hillary’s campaign alive.

There is a precedent for a pre-emptive pardon, which occurred when President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon shortly after Nixon’s resignation.  Ford did so in order to heal a nation after the Watergate scandal without the distraction of a former president going through the judicial system.  Ford likely lost to Jimmy Carter during the next election partly because of the pardon issue.  In Obama’s case, it is his legacy at stake, not his re-election.

Given the forbearance of Democrats and the media over Hillary’s email use and the brewing scandals involving Bill and their foundation, Obama may make a crass political calculation to keep Hillary in the race despite the initial negative outcry.  Obama himself has survived several scandals involving the IRS, Bowe Bergdahl, Benghazi, and his blatant disregard for the Constitution in his executive orders.  He has suffered no consequences.  The media will wring their hands for a few news cycles and then justify the need to keep Hillary’s quest for the White House alive.  This political calculation might succeed.

Donald Trump would have a huge opening to blast the president and “Corrupt Hillary” and rally Republicans and independents to reform Washington by voting for him.  Whether he would succeed is an open question, and it would depend on his own ability to persuade a rebellious electorate.  If he fails, the prospect of Hillary becoming president, knowing that she is invincible, could have a profound impact on our Republic.