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Track record of presidential pardons

January 19, 2021

LAHORE: The outgoing American President Donald Trump might grant presidential pardon to 100 more individuals on the last day of his office today (Tuesday), in line with the legacy of his predecessors who used to constitutionally bestow mercy upon convicted traitors and other felons during their tenures, besides giving partial or complete relief to those serving prison terms towards the fag end of their regimes.

The only four-time American President Franklin Roosevelt had pardoned the highest number of people during his terms in office.

He had forgiven 3,796 people - a record till date! Research shows that over 20,000 pardons and commutations have been issued by US presidents in the 20th Century alone.

A presidential pardon is an official expression of forgiveness that removes the civil penalties — restrictions on the right to vote, hold elected office, and sit on a jury, for example — and, often, the stigma attached to criminal convictions.

The CNN reports: “President Donald Trump is preparing to issue around 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, according to three persons familiar with the matter, a major batch of clemency actions that includes white collar criminals, high-profile rappers and others but - as of now - is not expected to include Trump himself”.

The leading media outlet maintains: “One White House official said paperwork had not yet been drawn up for a self-pardon. Still, Trump is expected to leave the White House on January 20 and could issue pardons up until noon on Inauguration Day. Other attention-grabbing names, like Julian Assange, are also not currently believed to be among the people receiving pardons, but the list is still fluid and that could change, too. It’s also not certain whether Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon will receive a pardon”.

However, on January 7 this year, The New York Times had reported that Trump was considering pardoning himself in the final days of his presidency.

Quite recently, on January 17, this newspaper had revealed: “According to the Justice Department, President Trump has granted clemency to dozens of people during his term in office, including pardoning his former national security adviser Michael Flynn in November. In his latest round of pardons announced Wednesday evening, Trump pardoned, among others, Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; Paul Manafort, his 2016 campaign chairman; and Roger Stone Jr, his long-time informal adviser and friend whose sentence the president had commuted in July”.

The New York Times had more to disclose: “Both Stone and Manafort had declined to cooperate with prosecutors in connection with the special counsel’s Russia investigation, which Trump had disparaged as the “Russian collusion hoax,” “prosecutorial misconduct” and an “injustice”. In the last two days alone, Trump pardoned 41 people and commuted the sentences of eight more. During his four years in office, Trump has commuted the sentences of just 24 people, after receiving more than 9,200 petitions for commutations, the Justice Department said”. Three former Republican members of Congress were also pardoned by Trump.

These included: Duncan Hunter of California, Chris Collins of New York and Steve Stockman of Texas. Meanwhile, Conrad Black, a former press baron and friend of Trump, was granted a full pardon of 12 years after his sentencing for fraud and obstruction of justice.

Similarly, filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza received a presidential pardon from Trump after pleading guilty to making illegal campaign contributions in 2014. By the way, the United States has a history of even presidents receiving pardons from their successors.

In September 1974, a month after President Richard Nixon had resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal, his successor Gerald Ford granted him unconditional pardon for all offences that he may have committed.

Remember, Nixon was not formally charged by then, but there were strong chances he could be held guilty for making his men snoop illegally in the offices of his arch political rivals.

Coming back to Trump, exercising his Constitutional authority, he has also forgiven some of his own friends and supporters like a former Arizona Sheriff and campaign supporter, Joe Arpaio, whose crackdown on illegal immigration became a flashpoint during the 2016 presidential campaign. In 2001, President Bill Clinton pardoned his half-brother, Roger Clinton, for a 1985 conviction related to distributing cocaine.

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