Conrad Black says U.S. President Donald Trump “might not have been very enthused” to grant him a pardon had he been publicly critical of the president.
In a sit-down interview with CTV National Affairs Correspondent Omar Sachedina, Black, who published a flattering biography of the president last year and has referred to Trump as an old friend, said the president wouldn’t have had “much incentive” to get the ball rolling on a pardon if he criticized him in his op-eds and columns.
But Black also doesn’t think his book scored him the presidential pardon, and says Trump assured him that clemency was “the right thing to do, legally.”
Black also offered his prediction for the 2020 presidential race and floated the name of one candidate he thinks may stand a chance against Trump. (Spoiler: it isn’t Joe Biden.)
Omar Sachedina: Is there a sense of vindication?
Conrad Black: Yes, yes considerable sense of vindication but also a sense of the end of it and ending as well as it could. This is nothing hanging out you see. I don’t have to listen to imbeciles saying I’m a felon or something because I’m not a felon. I never was, as far as I was concerned … It’s a good thing to be done with. It’s like having your jacket laundered if mud is splashed on it or something like that.
You feel cleansed?
Well that’s maybe overstating it. I never felt unclean but it’s a step forward certainly.
How do you respond to the people who essentially say your book bought you your pardon?
People will say what they will say and there’s always going to be some people who put a negative construction on these things.
But the fact is – I would say two things. First of all, the subject of that book has never come up between the president and me. I have no idea if he’s even aware that I wrote it. I imagine he is, but he’s never referred to it. And I’d be astounded if he read it.
And in any case, that book was no whitewash of him, as you pointed out a number of his more flamboyant and controversial activities throughout his career.
But the other thing I would say is … that if I was one of those who regularly attacked him in these columns and blogs I write in the United States … if I was slagging him off every day and inciting readers to believe that I actually thought he had colluded with a foreign government to rig the election or anything like that, I think he might not have been very enthused to do anything and wouldn’t have much incentive to require the legalities of my case be examined by the White House counsel. I think that’s just human nature.
But that he was responding to what I’ve written about him or said about him or our cordial relations, he assured me absolutely that while those were there and he was happy with them, what he was doing was because he was assured that it was the right thing to do legally.
You defended him, you defended him quite vociferously. Why do you feel the need to do that? What’s in it for Conrad Black?
Nothing. I’m a historian. I think he’s been a good president. I think the previous 20 years before his time were the worst period in misgovernment in the history of the United States.
You had a foreign policy that oscillated between George W. Bush’s rather indiscriminate interventionism and Barack Obama’s feckless isolationism and pacifism. It was a rudderless country and its national interest was not defined.
You call Barack Obama isolationist. Some are calling Donald Trump isolationist. The fact that he’s withdrawing from multilateral institutions. The FBI said last year that the number of hate crimes had gone up. Even Republicans, according to polls, are saying that the U.S. is more divided now. Given all of that, do you think that the U.S. is more fractured after he got into office?
No, I think it’s more united. There’s no unifying force like prosperity. When you eliminate unemployment, you automatically reduce social abrasions. You don’t eliminate them, but you reduce them.
Look, he attacked the entire political class. He attacked the Bushes as much as Obama or the Clintons. And he attacked Wall Street’s political influence, Silicon Valley’s political influence, Hollywood’s political influence, the national political media, the campaign financing system, the lobbyists – all of them. Everything. Said it was all rotten – swamp.
And he obviously therefore stirs things up and these people who have operated that system very comfortably for themselves for a long time are extremely antagonistic to him. Hence this nonsense that he committed what amounted to treason with a foreign power. There’s no truth to that. There was never any truth to it.
I do not accept Trump is responsible for the division in that country and I think it’s simmering down now, in a climate now that the Russian nonsense is out of the way, it is simmering down and it will simmer down. And there’s no emollient like prosperity.
Do you see Trump winning next year?
Easily. If they put up (Joe) Biden, he’ll win by about 10 per cent, which is 14 million in a U.S. election. If they go for one of these left-wing kooks, he’ll beat Mr. Nixon’s record of an 18 million plurality, and that was in a 77 million electorate.
So in the Democratic field, as you see it now, who stands the best chance?
I have the odd feeling that (Amy) Klobuchar would, the Senator from Minnesota. She’s sort of Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale in drag. She’s moderate and sensible. She’s got no panache, but I could see people warming to her.
Biden looks like the one, but they’re not electing him. He’s a tired pantomime horse. He’s a good old boy, but Joe Biden has a hot air balloon for a brain. He couldn’t lead that country across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Conrad Black speaks to Omar Sachedina about the pardon granted to him by U.S. President Donald Trump.