It has been clear for a long time that the model of leadership President Donald Trump most admires and seeks to emulate is the mob boss.

Maybe this comes from years of brushing elbows with Mafia kingpins and lesser thugs while he was expanding his New York real estate empire and buying into gambling casinos. Maybe it has to do with his bromance with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the godfather of the world’s biggest kleptocracy. Whatever the reason, Trump believes power can and should be used for his own benefit. He freely flouts laws that get in his way, expects the people under him to be totally loyal and is quick to seek revenge against anyone who crosses him or betrays him.

For Trump, the most glorious thing about being a mob-boss president is the unlimited pardon power that comes with the job. The authors of our Constitution gave that power to the chief executive to allow a means of mercy to benefit people who had suffered enough for their crimes or been wrongly convicted. Apparently, they were not cynical enough to imagine that the person holding the highest office in the land would use the pardon power to spring his corrupt minions from jail. Then again, most of us never imagined a President Trump.

In his final deranged days in office, Trump is giving out pardons like candy on Halloween and, according to one analysis, 80% are going to people with whom he has a personal connection. They include campaign apparatchiks who lied to the FBI about their dealings with Russia, Republican congressmen who committed crimes while in office but stayed loyal to Trump, mercenaries who perpetrated a massacre in Iraq and many more unsavory characters who have served little or no time behind bars. He also commuted the sentence of a fellow known as the king of Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Why? Perhaps he just admires the guy’s brazen style. 

No other president – not even Richard Nixon– has come close to abusing the pardon power on this scale. It is a wholesale attack on the U.S. Justice Department and an insult to the principle of equal justice. But Trump doesn’t care. A mob boss does whatever a mob boss can get away with.

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