Waiting for End-of-Administration Pardons

The Story:

As the days tick down to the end of the single Presidential term of Donald Trump, speculation has become rampant about what pardons this President may issue on his way out the door. A President’s power to pardon is effectively unlimited given the absolute language with which it is granted in the US Constitution.


On the morning of Friday, December 18, the news oriented website Axios published what it called a “scoop” on the “Trump pardons expected today.” In fact, Trump didn’t pardon anyone that day, but the report did stir an already bubbling pot of anticipation.

Trump has granted some form of executive clemency (a full pardon is only the extreme case) 44 times in this Presidency. That is a low number by the standards of his 20th and 21st century predecessors. President Jimmy Carter made extensive use of clemency, issuing more than 500 full pardons.

In January 2001, outgoing President Bill Clinton pardoned Marc Rich as one of his final acts in office, literally signing the papers on the morning of January 20. Marc Rich was a fugitive billionaire then living in Switzerland, who owed the US Treasury $48 million in taxes.

The Thing to Know:

President Trump is said to have under consideration a pardon for Edward Snowden, who in 2013 copied and leaked highly classified information about US surveillance programs. The advocates of a Snowden pardon argue that the surveillance programs themselves were unconstitutional. They see him as a legitimate whistle blower.

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