Trump's Pardons Signal He'll 'Take Care Of' Associates If They Don't Turn on Him, Ex-Federal Prosecutor Says

President Donald Trump is signaling to his associates that they will escape punishment for criminal acts as long as they remain loyal, a former federal prosecutor has warned after the president's latest round of pardons.

Joyce Vance, a former Northern District of Alabama attorney now at the University of Alabama School of Law, told MSNBC "The Last Word" host Lawrence O'Donnell Tuesday that Trump's "pardon package" was a message for his associates and friends.

On Tuesday, Trump commuted the sentence of ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of a range of crimes including trying to sell a Senate seat.

Trump also pardoned former New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik, who was convicted of tax fraud, New York financier Michael Milken, who was jailed for conspiracy to hide stocks and tax fraud, and former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who was imprisoned for failing to report a felony in a bribery case.

Trump told reporters Tuesdsay, "I'm actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country." In total, the president granted clemency to 11 convicted criminals Tuesday.

Vance told O'Donnell, "If this was the first time we'd ever seen President Trump deliver a 'pardon package'—or as you called it, I think more aptly, a 'pardon party'—then maybe we would think that he was trying to fulfill some kind of a commitment to d doing justice."

"But we know better than that at this point in the Trump presidency," she continued.

"We know that this is a president who uses pardons to signal to people who have been his friends and have been his associates, that if they will not turn and testify against him that he will take care of them down the road."

Vance noted that those pardoned Tuesday had engaged in "public corruption, lying to law enforcement, extortion" and other crimes "akin to some of the allegations that have swirled around the president and his associates."

"There's no way to take this other than as a message to people that he will take care of them as long as they don't stray from the fold," she added.

Trump's opponents have long feared he may decide to pardon associates convicted in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Those convicted include former campaign manager Paul Manafort, long-time confidant Roger Stone and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

Observers and lawmakers have warned that Trump may feel emboldened to issue nakedly political pardons following his acquittal by the Senate, especially if he wins re-election in November.

Donald Trump, pardons, associates, criminal, prosecutor
President Donald Trump is pictured arriving on Air Force One at LAX Airport on February 18, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Michael Kovac/WireImage/Getty