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April 1, 2016

GOP frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz author joint letter urging Prez Obama to commute tens of thousands more federal sentences!

April-Fool-5Apologies to those who clicked through based on the headline of this post to discover that this headline is my lame attempt to bring a timely sentencing spin to April Fools Day. 

As I was thinking about what to post on this special day for silliness and pranks, it dawned on me that whomever does eventually become the GOP candidate for President probably would be eager to have Prez Obama commute tens of thousands of prison sentences before the election... so that he could thereafter blame any and all future crimes on the current President and every other Democrat currently in office or running for office.  This reality, I think, helps explain why Prez Obama has still been so stingy with his clemency grants to date despite so much talk about a big clemency push.

Indeed, in light of Prez Obama's grant of only 61 more commutations earlier this week (details here), I am inclined to predict that we will only see, at most, a few dozen more clemency grants before the November election.  But once the election is completed, I think it is entirely unpredictable what Prez Obama might do in the clemency arena.  Prez Bill Clinton issued a large number of last-day clemencies, including a notorious pardon to campaign funder and fugitive Marc Rich, and the controversy that created likely led the Prez George W. Bush only granting a few lame-duck clemencies.

Ironically, if a fellow Democrat is elected in November, I suspect Prez Obama will be inclined to grant fewer lame-duck clemencies: he likely will not wish to create any unique challenges or controversies when a member of his own party takes over his position in the Oval Office, and he likely will be hopeful that a successor from his party will continue his visible clemency push.  In contrast, if a Republican wins in November, I would expect Prez Obama to grant more clemencies so that he could in this way burnish his claim to have lived up to his "hope and change" campaign mantra in the criminal justice arena.

Finally, while focused on the intersection of April Fools Day and the 2016 campaign, am I crazy to imagine that GOP frontrunner Donald J. Trump might give a big speech today to announce that his entire campaign was just a massive prank and the most amazingly extended form of performance art in American political history?

April 1, 2016 at 10:25 AM | Permalink


A serious fyi:


Posted by: Joe | Apr 1, 2016 10:35:56 AM

I think the April Fools came a little early---Obama released a crack house owner with a felony gun record after only 16 years. I can see the cases for clemency where you have a first time offender who maybe played a minor role in a drug operation, but unless there is something I missed, it is surpassing strange that a guy who lectures the rest of us about gun violence would spring a guy who maintained a crack house and used a gun to do so.

Posted by: federalist | Apr 1, 2016 11:06:04 AM

At yesterday's White House clemency briefing, Neil Eggleston said Obama "is committed to using his clemency power in a way not seen by any president during the modern era." If Congress fails to pass a sentencing reform bill prior to Nov. 8, Obama should commute the 5000+ crack offenders who did not receive the benefit of the Fair Sentencing Act.

Posted by: Jeremy | Apr 1, 2016 11:06:05 AM

Well, sadly, the Trump campaign-as-joke idea was itself made into an April Fool's prank by Jimmy Kimmel: http://mashable.com/2016/04/01/jimmy-kimmel-donald-trump-april-fools/#IUjgzVHBDEq5

Posted by: Knudson | Apr 1, 2016 3:00:18 PM

Here are a few more April Fool's pranks:

1. The Second Circuit rules in favor of Jane Doe and upholds Judge Gleeson's Expungement Order.

2. Proportionality and rationality returns to white collar sentencing.

3. Proportionality and rationality returns to child porn (not child abuse) sentencing.

4. Judges stop acting holier than though.

5. Rand Paul and Cory Booker's REDEEM ACT actually gets a vote in the Senate.

6. Jesus visits.

None of this is going to happen.

Posted by: Nasty Brutish and Short | Apr 1, 2016 5:42:58 PM

7. criminal sentencing in general returns to proportionality and rationality

Posted by: bruce cunningham | Apr 1, 2016 6:15:40 PM

"criminal sentencing in general returns to proportionality and rationality" and lenient judges like Olu Stevens are removed from the bench

Posted by: federalist | Apr 1, 2016 6:27:45 PM

Hmmm...so let me get this straight. The argument starts by advocating that Cruz and Trump would not use the pardon card for many individuals. Got that, it makes sense, them being republican, one a conservative, and one an absolute baffoon who goes all over the political map.

But then the claim is that Obama would not want to let out that many pardons because the crime rate would rise. Zounds! That means the conservative/baffoon position is correctomundo!! Or something...

Posted by: Eric Knight | Apr 7, 2016 11:13:57 AM

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