While past presidents were mourning former First Lady Barbara Bush at her funeral in Houston today, President Trump was on his phone in Mar-a-Lago, having his usual Twitter meltdown.
In between excoriating James Comey and tossing around conspiracy theories about Mr. Peepers, President Trump decided to suddenly announce he was considering a pardon for Jack Johnson, the history-making boxer.
Trump, as you might imagine, appears to have taken a particular interest in pardons as of late.
Some background on the controversy: Jack Johnson was the first black man to ever hold the title of world heavyweight champion. By 1912, he hadn't lost a match in four years. Other white boxers refused to fight him. When one, Canadian Tommy Burns, did, Johnson destroyed him soundly.
The match incited a series of riots across the country, some of which left people dead.
Johnson, a hero for many, was nonetheless arrested and sent to prison twice for violating a law that made it illegal to transport a white woman across state lines.
She was his girlfriend.
Since then, activists, family members, and folks in the boxing community have been working diligently to secure Johnson a presidential pardon. He was the subject of the movie The Great White Hope starring James Earl Jones. His life has also been explored in numerous documentaries and theater shows.
When President Obama was in office and a pardon was under consideration, the Department of Justice said that they were reserved for living people only. Activists at the time accused the DOJ of performing a historic cop-out. So it's just possible that Trump might do the right thing in this case — if only for purely selfish motives.
According to Trump, Sylvester Stallone vouched for Johnson.
Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial. Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2018
The benign interpretation of events is that Trump really really cares about one boxer's historical legacy. A more corrosive reading is that Trump isn't even sure that Johnson has passed — remember Frederick Douglass, y'all?
The most accurate version of events comes from Maggie Haberman at the New York Times, however, who suggested that Trump may have done this to communicate to allies that pardons are coming their way — if they don't collaborate with Mueller.
It’s almost like there’s a value right now in reminding some folks he has this power https://t.co/IUv4SdBUcY
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 21, 2018
This is the least offensive of Trump's tweets today, so let's just enjoy it for what it is. Dumb.