Sunday, December 5th | 1 Tevet 5782

December 22, 2017 9:24 am

Trump Was Right to Pardon Rubashkin

avatar by Arnold Steinberg


Sholom Rubashkin with his family. Photo:

Somewhat more than two months ago, I explained in some detail why President Donald Trump should pardon Sholom Rubashkin. Indeed, President Trump’s just-announced commutation (an exoneration, as I see it) of Rubashkin is a no-brainer.

Although the contrived charges and judicial collusion against Rubashkin were notably worse than other federal prosecutorial misconduct and compliant judges, with such instances documented by Sidney Powell, some hardliners in the prison-industrial complex resist any commutation (even for Rubashkin), however meritorious, as bad for business — i.e., the enterprise of mass incarceration.

Although I suggested Yom Kippur as an appropriate time for the pardon for Rubashkin, an Orthodox Jew, President Trump’s timing for Hanukkah also is fitting. But make no mistake — letting Rubashkin return to his large family is not a Jewish issue, though many leading Orthodox Jews championed his cause. And it is not a religious matter, although prominent Christians have for years called for Rubashkin’s release. Among these was the late and saintly Charles Colson, arguably the most influential figure in the last generation for prison reform. Many civil libertarians, including Harvard Law School icon Alan Dershowitz, had also called for justice for the beleaguered Rubashkin.

Neither Rubashkin nor his family was a contributor to Donald Trump’s campaign. The Rubashkin family was broken financially, in a conspiracy that many believe was engineered by a federal judge of dubious judgment, at best — or questionable integrity, at worst, along with federal attorneys, agents, and their fellow travelers in the Department of Justice (DOJ). They behaved not like fair-minded prosecutors and conscientious investigators, but as “thugs” (Ayn Rand’s word).

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Their conduct in this case was an affront to the men and women in the Department of Justice, and those FBI agents, and conscientious federal judges that have integrity. Meanwhile, the Stalinist-style (“Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime”) feds have fought this commutation. Trump’s commutation of Rubashkin is not a “fix,” as when Eric Holder suspiciously engineered a dubious pardon under President Bill Clinton for fugitive swindler Marc Rich, whose wife was a patron of the Clintons.

President Trump’s commutation of Rubashkin is an action of justice and principle, a signal that Trump may, at long last, drain the swamp at the Department of Justice. The Rubashkin commutation signals to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that this president, despite his hardliner image, is more open to criminal justice reform than his liberal predecessor — and that Sessions ought to climb aboard the reformist bandwagon.

Although Rubashkin is an egregious victim of DOJ prosecutorial misconduct, I believe that Barack Obama and his ideological cohorts needed Rubashkin in prison. That’s because Obama could not plausibly repudiate the overzealous prosecutors and abusive federal agents who comprise the enforcers of that maze of federal regulations at the foundation of contemporary “progressivism.” While many careerists in federal law enforcement are moral and fair, the administrative state emboldens the DOJ’s “bad apples.” Intimidation and coercion are now the foundations of bureaucracy gone wild.

Make no mistake. Although prominent leaders in the Democratic Party, including Senator Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, favored a commutation for the persecuted Rubashkin, the real catalysts were conservative Republicans who quietly and tirelessly sought the commutation. Despite former Attorney General Eric Holder’s image as some sort of reformer, he dutifully followed the prison officialdom, even refusing to boldly implement a bipartisan commission’s endorsed reforms to stem the sexual assaults and rapes in Federal prisons.

In my book Whiplash! From JFK to Donald Trump, A Political Odyssey, I explain why that since the days of Alexis de Tocqueville, who helped inspire modern conservatism and American greatness, the cause of ordered liberty is necessarily championed by conservatives. Mass incarceration is a consequence of the failure of liberalism — dysfunctional over more than a half century — and the collapse of its ideology, even as its politically correct devotees, euphemistically called progressives, curiously update it. Putting people in jails is a testimony to the disintegration of civil society, the result of a secular culture that disdains the individual — and instead celebrates big government gone mad. Sadly, the case of Sholom Rubashkin is not an isolated one.

Mass incarceration is not an anomaly of the Left, but a corollary. Let what happened to Rubashkin start the debate.

A version of this article was originally published by The American Spectator.

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