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November 29, 2008

Lots more talk about Presidential pardons

This new AP article provides a detailed overview of the variety of federal defendants hoping to be the beneficiary of presidential grace this holiday season. Here are some excerpts:

Some high-profile convicts past and present are among more than 2,000 people asking President George W. Bush to pardon them or commute their prison sentences before he leaves office.  Junk-bond king Michael Milken, media mogul Conrad Black and American-born Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh have applied to the Justice Department seeking official forgiveness.

But with Bush's term ending Jan. 20, some lawyers are lobbying the White House directly to pardon their clients.  That raises the possibility that the president could excuse scores of people, including some who have not been charged, to protect them from future accusations, such as former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales or star baseball pitcher Roger Clemens.

Those who have worked with Bush predict that will not happen.  The White House has declined to comment on upcoming pardons.  "I would expect the president's conservative approach to executive pardons to continue through the remainder of his term," said Helgi C. Walker, a former Bush associate White House counsel....

Last week, Bush issued 14 pardons and commuted two sentences — all for small-time crimes such as minor drug offenses, tax evasion and unauthorized use of food stamps.  That brought his eight-year total to 171 pardons and eight commutations granted.  That is less than half as many as President Bill Clinton or President Ronald Reagan issued.  Both were two-term presidents, like Bush....

One Washington lawyer whose clients are directly pursuing the White House for pardons said Bush is expected to issue two more rounds of pardons: one right before Christmas, as is customary, and one right before he leaves office.  The lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid hurting the clients' chances....

Under the Constitution, the president's power to issue pardons is absolute and cannot be overruled — meaning he can forgive anyone he wants, at any time.

Meanwhile, the New York Times today has this new editorial headlined "Mr. Bush and the Pardon Power."  Disappointingly, the editorial is focused on urging President Bush not to use his clemency power too much.  As regular readers likely realize, I think President Bush should be criticized for failing to use this historic power enough and should be urged to make up for his stinginess by showing that he is true compassionate conservative in his last two months in office.

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November 29, 2008 at 09:27 AM | Permalink

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