It's no secret that Donald Trump has a fraught relationship with the mainstream media, and the effects of this have been rippling throughout the country in many ways. One of the unexpected side effects of that element of his administration, though, is that previously neutral journalists have turned out to be loud anti-Trump voices. One of these is CNN's Jake Tapper, whose tweet about one of Trump's potential pardons shows just how weird things have become.
Tapper had previously discussed the pardons Trump has handed out or considered handing out, including those for conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, and businesswoman Martha Stewart.
Critics and analysis suggest that "these are all individuals prosecuted by people the president deems his opponents ... ones who faced charges that members of the Trump team could face themselves," Tapper said according to CNN.
Blagojevich, even among the three mentioned above, is a particular case. The New York Times reported in 2011 that Blagojevich, the Democratic governor of Illinois, had been convicted on 18 counts of corruption after trying to sell the Illinois senate seat that Barack Obama had vacated after becoming president. This was a pretty clear cut case, as cases go.
According to Biography.com, Blagojevich was arrested in 2008 after federal agents had enough evidence to charge him with having tried to effectively sell Obama's vacated Senate seat after Obama won the election. Blagojevich wanted campaign donations and a high-powered job for his wife in exchange for the seat, and he was caught on tape saying as much.
“I’ve got this thing and it’s f****** golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for f****** nothing. I’m not gonna do it," Blagojevich can be heard saying in the recording.
After he was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison, the Times reported that he apologized for his crimes to the judge, his wife, and all of Illinois' residents.
“I caused it all,” the Times reported that Blagojevich said at his sentencing hearing. “I’m not blaming anyone. I was the governor, and I should have known better. I am just so incredibly sorry.”
Fast forward seven years into that prison sentence, and now a Republican president is dangling a pardon for the outwardly corrupt Democratic former governor. Blagojevich's wife, Patti Blagojevich, even went on conservative Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro's show to call for her husband's pardon, and she seems to have found an audience open to her argument.
Tapper the responded to this, or to something along the same lines, with a tweet unlike something that you'd normally expect from a CNN host. "Watching Trump supporters on tv and Twitter trying to defend the crimes of crooked Democrat Rod Blagojevich," Tapper wrote as a caption, but the GIF he posted is the more important content of the tweet. It's the phrase "Nothing Matters" on sparkly, rainbow background, with a smiling dolphin streaking across the screen every few seconds.
Somehow that colorful tweet encapsulates the bizarre quality surrounding the whole episode. Pardoning Blagojevich, according to the New York Times, would fall outside of the realm of how presidential pardons usually work. It's out of character for a Republican president to come to the aid of a Democratic former governor whose career ended so roundly engulfed in scandal. And you don't expect straight-laced CNN hosts to be tweeting sparkly rainbow dolphin GIFs, but all of these things have become the new normal in the Trump administration. Before this, Tapper had already put himself on the map of the Resistance by, for example, shutting down White House advisor Stephen Miller or by keeping up a steady stream of anti-Trump commentary on his Twitter feed — but now it's come to the sparkly rainbow dolphin GIFs, and that's just how the world is.