US President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a prosecution in the Russia probe that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the justice department stepped in to dismiss his case.
The US president, meanwhile, yet again railed over the election outcome. He stayed home at the White House, rage-tweeted about his defeat to Democrat Joe Biden, saying it was a “rigged election”, then barely mentioned the pandemic or greeted the nation on Thanksgiving, phoned into a packed news conference held by his allies in Pennsylvania, and called for “this election to be turned around”.
On the move to pardon his former NSA, the US president tweeted, “It is my great honour to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a full pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”
The Washington Post slammed the decision to pardon Flynn as a “parting disgrace” from the outgoing president.
President-elect Biden had a more constructive presence through the day. He called for unity and hope in a Thanksgiving eve address to Americans, reminding them that the country was at war with the coronavirus pandemic “and not with each other”.
The contrast in approach between the two leaders, their priorities and their styles played out in full public view over the day on Wednesday. A sombre Biden spoke to Americans from an empty music hall about the need for “solutions, not shouting; reason, not hyper-partisanship; light, not heat”, and urged them not to despair in the face of the pandemic. Speaking of the Covid-19 vaccines in the pipeline, he said, “Hang on, don’t let yourself surrender.”
Biden, who has sought to stay above Trump’s attempts to challenge the election result, addressed the issue head on.
“In America, we have full and fair and free elections, and then we honour the results,” he said without naming anyone. “The people of this nation and the laws of the land won’t stand for anything else.”
Biden said he understood the task of unifying the country is not going to be easy, but he insisted he was determined to bring together Democrats, Republicans and Independents. “Americans dream big. And, as hard as it may seem this Thanksgiving, we are going to dream big again,” he said.