How Trump and former presidents used the president’s pardon powers

As President Trump’s final days in the Oval Office draw to a close, it is widely expected that he will wield the power of pardon as his predecessors did. Pardons tend to snow at the end of a government, and Mr Trump has not hesitated to show mercy on a small number of Americans, including some of his controversial allies.

However, the number of people he has pardoned so far is much fewer than that of his immediate predecessors. To date, President Trump has pardoned 29 people. By the time President Obama resigned from office, he had pardoned 212 people; 189 were pardoned by President George W. Bush; and 396 received a pardon from President Clinton, according to the Justice Department. Unlike Mr. Trump, they each had eight years to grant pardons, not four. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served three terms, granted more pardons than any other president – 3,687.

President George Washington first apologized for two farmers in 1795 who had been sentenced to death for their role in the Whiskey Rebellion. This resulted from a whiskey excise tax advocated by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, Smithsonian Magazine noted. When Washington pardoned the two men, he said that while he considered it a sacred duty to exercise his constitutional powers “with firmness and vigor,” “it seems to me to be no less in harmony with the common good than with my personal feelings engage in the operations of government with every degree of moderation and tenderness that national justice, dignity, and security may permit. “

The president’s pardon enables the president to pardon any federal crime – it does not apply to state crimes. Article II of the Constitution states that the President “shall have the power to grant reprieve and pardon for crimes against the United States, except in cases of impeachment”.

“The president’s grace is very broad and virtually unchecked,” Jeffrey Crouch, an expert on presidential pardons and assistant professor at American University, told CBS News in an email.

“The only limits in the constitution are that the crime must be a ‘criminal offense against the United States’ or a federal crime (no state crimes are allowed). the crime must have already been committed; and the President is unable to use grace “in impeachment” or prevent someone from being charged, or undo prior impeachment. “

A pardon does not erase the crime from a person’s records, according to the DOJ. This was restored in the case of Arpaio and confirmed by the 9th Circle earlier this year, Bernadette Meyler, a law professor at Stanford Law School, noted in an email to CBS News.

Of the 29 pardons Mr Trump has granted at the time of this writing, several have been either allies or supporters of the President, including the former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who received Mr. Trump’s first pardon in August 2017. He was found guilty of the court’s disdain when he refused to obey a judge’s orders to stop rounds of immigration and Dinesh D’Souza, a Conservative writer and conspiracy theorist convicted of campaign entry fraud.

The president Most recently, his former national security advisor Michael Flynn was pardonedwho was found guilty of lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.

The president also pardoned Oregon ranchers Dwight L. Hammond and Steve D. Hammond were serving five years in prison for state arson, a case that sparked the armed occupation of a nature reserve in 2016.

Mr. Trump issued an even more infamous apology “Roller” Libby, the former chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney convicted of obstruction of justice, false testimony and perjury.

Mr. Trump has also used his grace on behalf of famous people in the world of sports, including a pardon he granted to Edward J. DeBartolo Jr., former owner of the San Francisco 49ers.

The president’s pardons included lesser-known names, and advocates of criminal justice reform have urged him to pardon even more Americans who have been wrongly punished or serving disproportionately long sentences.

One such pardon Mr. Trump granted was to Roy Wayne McKeever, who was convicted of using a phone to distribute marijuana after his arrest at the age of 19.

Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother sentenced to life imprisonment for drug offenses, became the face of the Criminal Justice Reform Act, one of the most significant Trump-era laws that the president rarely mentions when listing his accomplishments. The President issued her a full apology in August this year.

In addition to the power to pardon, the President can convert sentences, like he did for ally Roger Stonewho was convicted in November 2019 of tampering with witnesses and lying by investigators. Converting a sentence does not remove the condemnation, but shortens or eliminates a sentence.

So far, “Trump has not pardoned very many people compared to his most recent predecessors,” said Crouch. “But those who have received grace from him are mostly his political allies, supporters, or people with the right connections. The president should grant pardons for one of two reasons: showing compassion or serving the common good. When a president apologizes for pursuing his own personal interests, the decision may be legally acceptable, but it is still an abuse of pardon. “

Of course, Mr. Trump is nowhere near the only president in history to grant controversial pardons.

Gerald Ford has been heavily criticized for pardoning Richard Nixon in 1974 for crimes related to the Watergate scandal. Estimating that criminal proceedings against Mr. Nixon “cannot begin for a year or more,” Mr. Ford predicted that the “calm” restored to the nation by Mr. Nixon’s resignation could be irreparably lost by the prospect of a former president the United States on trial. “

“The prospect of such a trial will lead to an ongoing and divisive debate about the appropriateness of subjecting a man who has already paid the unprecedented penalty for serving as the United States’ highest electoral office to further punishment and humiliation,” said President Ford in the proclamation of Mr. Nixon’s apology.

The Supreme Court has “interpreted the President’s pardon under Article II even further than the founders would have imagined,” remarked Meyler.

“Particularly after the Civil War and the controversy over President Johnson’s pardon for members of the former Confederation, the court claimed that the pardon included amnesty and could cover all previous acts, whether charged or not,” Meyler said in one Email to CBS News. “Hence. President Ford apologized rather broadly to President Nixon” for all crimes against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, committed, or possibly committed or participated in, between January 20, 1969 and August 9, 1974.

George HW Bush pardoned Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan’s defense minister, charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in the Iran-Contra affair, days before Weinberger’s trial. Weinberger had claimed that he knew nothing about the illegal sale of weapons, which later turned out to be untrue.

It remains to be seen whether Mr Trump will issue preventative pardons against future prosecutions of his family or allies for crimes they may have committed, although that would protect neither of them from state prosecution. The New York Times reported earlier this month that the president was discussing with advisers the possibility of a preventive pardon for his three oldest children – Eric, Donald and Ivanka.

Mr Trump has until January 20 at noon to sign pardons.