History Podcasts

The Presidential Pardon That Backfired

The Presidential Pardon That Backfired

President Donald Trump has lately been making some assertions about presidential pardons. On July 22, 2017, he tweeted that “the U.S. president has complete power to pardon.”

But before the leader of the free world evaluates what’s possible in terms of pardoning his relatives and aides, he may want to take a look back at the presidential pardon that shook Washington, D.C. in the 1970s.

Following the infamous Watergate scandal which forced President Richard Nixon to resign on August 8, 1974, newly sworn-in President Gerald Ford pardoned his predecessor for his crime, just one month after taking office.

The decision to excuse Nixon from any prosecution, was an attempt to pull the country together in the wake of what he called America’s “long national nightmare.” It backfired. Pardoning Nixon caused Ford’s approval ratings to plummet – only 38 percent of Americans agreed that Ford should pardon Nixon, while 53 percent believed that Nixon shouldn’t have been pardoned, according to a Gallup poll taken in September of 1974.

The move by Ford is thought to have been a factor in his unsuccessful bid at re-election in 1976. President Trump, who already faces low approval rates among American voters, may want to take the actions of Ford as a lesson if he hopes to have a chance at re-election in 2020.


The History Of The Presidential Pardon

President Trump's pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio has prompted an outcry. Professor Andrew Rudalevige of Bowdoin University puts this pardon in historical context for our host A Martinez.

A follow-up now on President Trump's pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for defying a court order to stop detaining immigrants on suspicion that they were in the country illegally. Now, the pardon has drawn fire across the political spectrum. And one critic, former government ethics officer Walter Shaub, said it departs from procedural norms. So what are the procedural norms for pardons across American history? Well, our next guest has some answers to that question. He's Andrew Rudalevige, professor of government at Bowdoin College in Maine. Professor, welcome.

ANDREW RUDALEVIGE: Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure to be with you.

MARTINEZ: Now, President Trump tweeted last month, all agree the U.S. president has the complete power to pardon. So how did the Founding Fathers intended for the presidential pardon to be applied?

RUDALEVIGE: Well, they saw it in several ways. They obviously set up a system with pretty robust checks and balances. And the pardon power was intended to be part of that. Where the justice system had produced a miscarriage of justice, it was possible for the president to step in and provide a check against the judicial branch. Or framers like Alexander Hamilton saw the pardon power as a policy instrument. You know, if you had a rebellion or some kind of insurgency, the offer of clemency might restore tranquility to the Commonwealth, as he put it. So there were both reasons of individual mercy and broader public policy that have motivated the use of the pardon power over time.

MARTINEZ: So then how is the pardon of Joe Arpaio different from other presidential pardons?

RUDALEVIGE: Well, there certainly have been controversial pardons in the past. We can think back, really, just to 2001 when President Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, who was on the run outside the U.S., avoiding prosecution for tax evasion. That pardon was particularly controversial because Mr. Rich's ex-wife was a big donor to the Clinton Presidential Library. This pardon is different, I think, because it doesn't fit into our normal categories, right? It's not a question of mercy, especially since the sheriff has not actually even been sentenced yet. He was just convicted last month. On the other hand, as a policy matter, it's a little problematic because what the sheriff was convicted for was failing to obey a court order. You know, as an officer of the law, that is something he should be particularly concerned with.

MARTINEZ: Now, Walter Shaub, former U.S. chief ethics officer, called Arpaio's pardon a harbinger of worse to come. What do you think this pardon signals?

RUDALEVIGE: Well, there's certainly been commentary - Mr. Shaub and others who have been concerned that the pardon is meant at least in part as a signal that he's not very worried about using his pardon powers in ways that will be politically controversial. That might come into play, of course, in Mr. Mueller's investigation of potential Russian involvement in the 2016 election and the possible involvement of Trump campaign staff. So if the message is intended to signal to people being investigated by Mr. Mueller that, you know, if they just sit tight, they will be pardoned, that could be a problematic message to send.

MARTINEZ: Now, Sheriff Arpaio is much admired by President Trump. A lot of his supporters admire him, as well. Senator John McCain, on the other hand, said that the pardon undermines the president's claim to respect the rule of law. I'm wondering, professor, do you expect long-lasting political fallout from this?

RUDALEVIGE: Well, I mean, the president, I think, from the beginning of his administration, has clearly chosen to appeal to his base voters rather than to try to unite the country more broadly. And this pardon is very much part and parcel of that strategy. So, I mean, it will be popular in some quarters. I don't think that the action is going to live up to what Alexander Hamilton hoped, which is that you would, in fact, restore tranquility to the republic.

MARTINEZ: Andrew Rudalevige teaches government at Bowdoin College. Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MILOSH SONG, "HOLD ME")

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George Wilson

George Wilson comes early on the list not necessarily because his pardon was shocking but because of what happened after he was granted a pardon. In 1892, George Wilson and James Porter robbed a U.S. mail carrier. They were later arrested and tried. Both men were found guilty on six charges including &ldquoputting the life of the driver in jeopardy&rdquo and robbery of the mail. The men were sentenced to death by hanging which was scheduled for July 2nd, 1830.

Wilson, unlike his partner in crime, had some very powerful friends in Washington. These friends beseeched then President Andrew Jackson to pardon George Wilson of his crimes or least the death sentence. With many requests coming to him, Andrew Jackson decided to give George leniency. In 1830, Andrew Jackson pardoned Wilson for the crimes that led to his death sentence but let the rest stand. George Wilson would live but he would have to spend twenty years in jail to pay for the crimes he was not pardoned from.

On the surface, this seems like a good day for George Wilson, but then he did something that no one expected. He refused the pardon. This was unheard of and no one knew what to do about it. Andrew Jackson felt that George Wilson had no choice but to take the pardon and Wilson argued that the pardon had no value if he did not accept it. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Justices weighed the arguments and decided that a pardon was a piece of property just like anything else.

They ruled that Wilson could not be forced to take the pardon and if Wilson did not accept the pardon then it did not have any value. Therefore, Wilson&rsquos original conviction stayed and his death sentence was carried out. George Wilson was hanged for his crimes just like his accomplice and the efforts of his friends and President Jackson failed. There is no clear explanation for why Wilson preferred to be hanged rather than spend 20 years in prison but he is not the only person to reject presidential leniency. Arnold Ray Jones refused to have his sentence commuted by President Obama in 2016 because it came with the condition of enrolling in a residential drug treatment program.


The Presidential Pardon has a long history, but Trump has changed it

The Presidential Pardon was back in the news recently with reports that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange had been offered a presidential pardon in exchange for providing evidence Russia was not involved with hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee. Those emails were leaked during the 2016 presidential campaign.

It’s another in a string of pardon headline-grabbers in the administration of President Donald Trump. From his pardon of Maricopa, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio to his commutation of the sentence of political prankster and longtime friend Roger Stone, Trump has made news with nearly every one of his 38 pardons and commutations.

A pardon forgives people of the crimes they have committed. It’s as if the conviction never happened and their full rights are restored. A commutation just reduces or eliminates a prison sentence, but the conviction still stands.

In either case, all the attention Trump has received for his 27 pardons and 11 commutations thus far does not mean he’s granting clemency at some unprecedented rate.Plenty of presidents have granted far more pardons than Trump. It’s the way Trump has granted pardons, and to whom, that has raised eyebrows.

Margaret Love

“What he has done, that is so unusual, which none of his predecessors going back to the Civil War have done, is to completely cast aside the advisory system that was set up under President Lincoln to help the president use the pardon power,” explained Margaret Love, who served as U.S. Pardon Attorney from 1990 to 1997. “This president, he has used pardons as a kind of a personal plaything and he has ignored the Justice Department. And, for that, ordinary people who want to apply for a pardon, who have in the past been able to do so and be fairly considered, may no longer do so. That is what is different about this president.”

Love said what is unprecedented here is that Trump is skipping the pardon process altogether and is issuing pardons only to people he knows, people he has heard about, and not people who have specifically petitioned through the pardoning process.

A little presidential pardon history may be in order here. While it may seem that giving the president unlimited authority to pardon anyone without explanation sounds more like a monarchy than a democracy, Alexander Hamilton argued strongly for giving it a shot in Federalist 74. Hamilton had two reasons. One, Hamilton wrote that “without an easy access to exceptions,” justice would lack compassion. Second, Hamilton said “the tranquility of the commonwealth” could be restored by “well-timed” pardons to rebels during rebellions and insurrections. In fact, the first pardons were issued by George Washington during the Whiskey Rebellion. They went to farmers who challenged the government’s right to tax whiskey.

Over the years, the presidential pardon was pretty much used as intended – to help ordinary folks whose punishment was deemed too cruel, and to help the country by healing wounds of disagreement. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln granted lots and lots of pardons and was considered an easy touch. That may have been because he met with a lot of the pardon-seekers and their families at the White house.

The pardon process at this time began to change and become part of the Justice Department. The idea was to take some of the pardon burden off the president’s shoulders. The president still said yes or no but the Clerk of Pardons and, later, the Pardon Attorney, did all the vetting.

The process went through a lot of changes but did provide pardon access to everyday Americans, despite some pretty glaring examples of White House access giving certain people a leg up. Bill Clinton’s last-minute pardon of Marc Rich is an example some cite. But, the 45 th President has made the latter the rule, not the exception.

“Recent presidents of both political parties have usually, with some high-profile exceptions, used clemency to commute sentences or issue pardons to offenders that they don’t know and do not have an obvious connection to,” said Jeffrey Crouch of American University, a leading expert on presidential pardons. “Presidents who use clemency to help out their friends or associates are abusing clemency, in my opinion.”

Jeffrey Crouch

Crouch said the way the presidential pardon is being applied in the Trump era does not reflect the original purpose set up by the founders.

“They wanted presidents to use clemency to show mercy or serve the public welfare, Crouch said. “I doubt they would be pleased with a president who uses clemency to assist celebrities, his friends and his supporters. Still, unlike several of his recent predecessors, President Trump is at least making his controversial clemency decisions at a time when he is still accountable at the ballot box.”

According to former Pardon Attorney Love, the pardon process for everyone else has ground to a halt under Trump.

“It doesn’t exist anymore,” Love said. “Hopefully this is coming to an end. So, if we get a new president, we’ll have to review and see if he wants to start it up again or not. And, if he doesn’t, that’s fine. And I wouldn’t blame him. But, then he’s got to figure out some way to substitute for the function that the pardon program has played over the years. The whole process is so backlogged at this point that I think that there’s almost no percentage in trying to salvage it.”

Love is a strong advocate for the pardon and commutation process. But, she said, the past four years show the whole process needs some legislative focus so all Americans can benefit from the power of the pardon.

“So, what I would focus on is to decide what you want a pardon power to do and then go and pass a law to make it happen like that, Love said.

“If you want to restore rights and opportunities to people with a criminal record then go pass a law to do it. Decide where the power ought to be – probably in the courts – and do that, and let the president do whatever he wants. Let him use it as a personal plaything the way this president has because it won’t matter after that.”


Presidential Pardon Power: Interpreting the Constitution

As written in Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the President's power to pardon seems nearly limitless:

"[The President] shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment."

However, the details of the presidential pardon have been fleshed out through the courts and the legacy of former chief executives. Since the Constitution refers to "offences against the United States," the President's power to pardon is limited to federal offenses only. State governors have similar authority to grant clemency (the broader term for an executive's power to lessen a punishment) to those convicted of state crimes.

The U.S. Supreme Court clarified presidential pardon power in an 1866 case (Ex Parte Garland) challenging the pardon of a former Confederate soldier by President Andrew Johnson. In its opinion, the Court stated that this power "extends to every offense known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment."

Presidents also may issue pre-emptive pardons -- or rather, a pardon for any crimes an individual may have committed or may have been charged with. For example, President Gerald Ford issued a pardon to outgoing President Richard Nixon even though Nixon had not been charged with any federal crimes at that point.

Additionally, the President may use this power to grant conditional pardons (such as serving a lesser sentence) or commutations or to grant remissions (returns) of fines or forfeitures and respites (i.e. delaying a sentence).


Richard Nixon is one of the most well-known pardons in American history. It was one that people either agreed with or were completely against, there was very little in-between and it affected the political culture of the country until the next election. Gerald Ford was put in a tough position in which his friend and the former president was facing punishment for crimes against the country and a trial that could threaten the stability of the country. A trial in which an American president was shown to be a criminal could have lasting repercussions in and out of the United States.

Richard Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974 and when Gerald Ford took the presidency one of his first decisions was what to do with Nixon. He knew that a pardon would be largely unpopular but still felt that it was the right thing to do. He contacted Nixon who was initially unsure of whether or not to accept the pardon and he refused to sign a statement of contrition. Nixon still felt that he had not done anything wrong and therefore did not want to sign anything that stated he was guilty. Ford agreed with Nixon and on September 8, 1974, he issued a full pardon which removed any possibility of indictment.

The pardon drew scrutiny and even led to Gerald Ford being called to testify before the House of Representatives. Many believed that a corrupt bargain had been struck in which Nixon agreed to resign so that Ford could take the presidency in return for a full pardon. This was denied by Ford and Nixon but the rumors continued and Ford&rsquos approval rating never recovered. Ford would later admit that the pardon was a major reason why he lost the election in 1976.

Gerald Ford would always be haunted by the outcome of the pardon. He would carry around a portion of the text of Burdick v. the United States in his wallet. The case was a Supreme Court decision which suggested that pardon carried an &ldquoimputation of guilt&rdquo and that accepting a pardon was the same as admitting guilt. By Nixon accepting the pardon, he was, in some small way, admitting his guilt to the crimes that he was likely to be incriminated for. Gerald Ford would later get the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for issuing the pardon. Ted Kennedy admitted that he was against the pardon when it happened but later stated that it was the right move.


What was the worst pardon ever? This historian says you'll be surprised

Political Pundits and television talking heads have been speculating widely and wildly about who Donald Trump will pardon before he leaves office on January 20, 2021. Will he pardon Rudy Giuliani? Paul Manafort? Steve Bannon? His children? Himself?

It is customary for an outgoing President to grant 11th hour pardons, sometimes to surprising recipients. But Donald Trump is anything but customary, and thus that pardon-guessing game offers a goldmine of interesting and in some cases alarming speculation regarding who and why.

This Christmastime gift giveaway shows us just how valuable a presidential get-out-of-jail card can be. Plus it gives a president opportunities to accomplish multiple personal and political goals.

Of course, not all presidential pardons are created equal. To be sure, justice and mercy are worthy and occasional goals. But the end-of-term pardons often reveal other, less savory objectives. Some pardons seem to be given in exchange for money (directly or as tax-free donations to a presidential library fund or other cause of interest for the outgoing president), some to settle scores, some to reward partisan loyalists.

The president's pardon power is broad and derives from the U.S. Constitution. The only two areas where the pardon power is forbidden are a) in cases of impeachment and b) for state, rather than federal, offenses. The question of a pardon prior to an indictment or finding of guilt was decided in the case of the Nixon pardon in 1974, when Gerald Ford granted his predecessor a "full, free, and absolute pardon" even before Nixon was charged formally with a crime (he was, however, named an "unindicted co-conspirator" in a criminal case that landed several people in his administration in jail).

The intentions of the Framers of the Constitution gave the newly invented president the pardon power to ensure justice and, as Alexander Hamilton noted a few years after the adoption of the Constitution, "restore domestic tranquility of the commonwealth." But not every Founder was in support of giving the president this absolute power. George Mason, a convention delegate from Virginia, warned that a president might "make dangerous use of it" by pardoning crimes in which he might be a co-conspirator.

The early pardons were indeed used to ensure mercy and to quell hostility towards the new government, which was in the early stages of gaining legitimacy. But it wasn't long before the pardon power met with controversy.

James Buchanan, the president who presided over the pre-civil war breakup of the union, pardoned Brigham Young and other Mormons who had been involved in revolutionary acts against the government in the Utah territory. Buchanan was justly concerned that Young and the Mormons intended to break away from the U.S. and form their own "theocratic nation." As part of a compromise, Buchanan delivered pardons and Young and his followers ceased their revolutionary activities.

Just after the Civil War, Andrew Johnson issued a Christmas Day 1868 pardon to most Southerners. Johnson wanted to go easy on the Confederates, while members of Congress called for punishment against the rebels. To make matters worse, Johnson pardoned Dr. Samuel Mudd, who helped John Wilkes Booth escape. It all became too much, a great backlash occurred, and Johnson lost virtually all support from Congress en route to being the first impeached President.

In 1921, President Warren G. Harding pardoned Socialist leader Eugene V. Debs. Debs had run for president several times, even getting nearly a million votes in 1920, but called on Americans to resist the draft in World War I. Debs was imprisoned and even ran for president from prison, his fifth and final run at the White House. Harding granted Debs a full pardon, which ran against popular opinion.

On Christmas Eve 1971, Richard Nixon pardoned labor boss Jimmy Hoffa, who had been convicted of fraud and bribery. Nixon was trying to woo labor voters to the Republican Party, and openly courted Teamsters prior to his 1972 bid for reelection. Hoffa disappeared four years later following a meeting with known members of the mob. In 1982 he was legally declared dead.

To many, Gerald Ford's pardoning of Richard Nixon ranks as the worst ever. Ford was suspected of agreeing to a deal with Nixon that called for Nixon to resign in exchange for a pardon. Over time, the consensus view is that there was actually no deal, and Ford granted Nixon a pardon to both "get Watergate behind us," and out of concern for the health of the former president.

Other modern questionable pardons include Jimmy Carter's pardon for all those who evaded the draft during Vietnam War, Bill Clinton's pardon for his half-brother Roger, who was convicted on drug charges, Clinton's controversial pardon of donor Marc Rich, who had been convicted of tax fraud (Rich's ex-wife was a mega-donor to the Democratic Party), George W. Bush's pardon of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief-of-staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who had been convicted of perjury and obstruction for lying about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, Barack Obama's pardoning of Private Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of releasing classified documents, and Donald Trump's pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was an anti-immigrant Arizona official who supervised harsh treatment of immigrant detainees under inhumane conditions. Other notable Trump pardons include one for Mike Flynn, his National Security Advisor, who lied under oath, and former Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher, who was convicted of committing war crimes.

The only person NOT to accept a presidential pardon was George Wilson, who in 1829 was found guilty of robbery of the mail. Without giving an explanation, Wilson refused the pardon. The Supreme Court finally rendered a judgment on this and ruled that it was Mr. Wilson's right to reject a pardon. He was executed by hanging not long afterward.

By the numbers, modern presidents have varied widely in the number of pardons they granted. FDR (who was elected four times) granted the most (2,819). His successor Harry Truman was also pardon-happy, issuing 1,913. Ike granted 1,110. From then on, presidents greatly reduced the number of pardons granted. In descending order, Kennedy issued 472, Clinton 396, Reagan 393, Ford 382, Obama 212, GW Bush 189, and GHW Bush 74.

Perhaps the most intriguing pardon was by Harry Truman, who in 1952 commuted the sentence of Oscar Collazo, who tried to assassinate Truman over the issue of Puerto Rican independence.

Is Donald Trump contemplating, and could he issue, a self-pardon? On June 14, 2018 he announced "I have the absolute right to pardon myself." But can he do so legally? It is unclear, as no president has ever issued a self-pardon (none felt the great need to), so it has never been tested in court. The two central problems of a self-pardon are 1) that it allows someone to be the judge in his own case and 2) that it puts a president above the law. A self-pardon violates both of these essential elements of our jurisprudence. The closest thing we have to a judicial precedent stems from 1974, when the Department of Justice issued a memorandum on this question. The acting Deputy Attorney General Mary C. Lawton asserted that a president could not issue a self-pardon. Such memoranda are considered in the Department of Justice to have the force of law. Thus, under current ruling, President Trump could not issue himself a pardon. Thus one can answer the question by saying that the President absolutely, unequivocally, probably can't issue a self-pardon.

A pardon for family members is another matter altogether. There seems no legal reason why he couldn't (but many legal and moral reasons why he shouldn't) give "the best Christmas present ever" to his family: a full, free, and absolute pardon!

Would a Trump self-pardon be the worst pardon ever? Probably, but until and if Trump does give himself a pardon, we would argue that the all-time worst presidential pardon ever was granted by George H.W. Bush to former secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger. Weinberger was about to face trial in the Iran-Contra scandal of the Reagan administration, where Bush had served as Reagan's vice president. Part of the case against Weinberger involved the use of entries from his diary relating to the making of decisions that led to illegal activity in both Iran (selling arms to terrorists) and with the Contras (illegally funding a rebellion against the government of Nicaragua). Vice President Bush had already testified under oath that he had no knowledge of these activities, but Weinberger's diaries said otherwise. They contained material that deeply implicated Bush in the decisions, and could have been used to put the former VP on trial for perjury. On Christmas Eve 1992 (Christmas eve is a very popular time for Presidents to issue pardons – for obvious reasons), Bush granted Weinberger a pardon. Thus, in pardoning Weinberger, Bush was able to keep is activities secret, and in effect give himself a pardon. Was this the first presidential self-pardon? In a way, yes.

The way to end the abuse of presidential pardons is to pass a constitutional amendment forbidding self-pardons and pardons for a president's family members. One might also pass an amendment allowing the Congress 30 days to vote approving a presidential pardon with a majority of both Houses having the ability to prevent a pardon that seems to them inappropriate. Pardons do have a positive role to play. But their checkered history calls upon us to make a few minor adjustments to move closer to the ideal.


This Delta Force rescue was the first attack of ‘Operation Just Cause’

Posted On January 28, 2019 18:41:18

As the United States was preparing to carry out the invasion of Panama, dubbed “Operation Just Cause,” there was a very real problem that had to be dealt with before any meaningful operation against Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega could take place.

The regime had an American hostage in its prison, and the guards where this hostage was being held had orders to kill him if America attacked.

According to an account posted on SpecialOperations.com, Kurt Muse had been making pirate radio broadcasts until he was arrested in early 1989. He’d received some technical assistance from the CIA to make those broadcasts, which had the goal of taking Noriega down a peg or two.

Muse would daily hear – or see – Noriega’s thugs torture inmates at the prison.

A MH-6 Little Bird carrying troops on the outrigger, similar to the technique used during Operation Acid Gambit. (DOD photo)

As tensions increased, Muse was visited by a military officer, later identified as Air Force Col. James A. Ruffer, who would pass reports to Delta Force. The special operators constructed a full-scale mock-up of the prison where Muse was held captive, and the Delta commandos carried out numerous rehearsals.

On December 19, 1989, Muse would receive his last visit. In the presence of reporters, prison guards, and others, the colonel asked Muse if he was aware that orders had been issued by Noriega to kill him if the United States carried out any military action against Panama.

The colonel then made a statement that if Muse were to be harmed, nobody in the prison would emerge alive.

A US Army MH-6 Little Bird. (DOD photo)

Muse knew that something was up.

At 12:45 AM on the morning of Dec. 20, 15 minutes before the official H-Hour, two AH-6 Little Bird helicopters carried out an attack on a nearby military compound using M134 Miniguns and Hydra rockets. One of the helicopters would be damaged and forced to crash-land, with the crew making an escape.

Two AC-130H Spectres then carried out their own attack on that compound, using a tactic called “Top Hat.” The massive volume of fire from the gunships had the effect of drawing the attention of Noriega’s goons.

As that went on, MH-6 Little Birds landed on the roof of the prison and deposited Delta commandos. The operators went through the prison, killing anyone who resisted the rescue. They reached Muse’s cell, forced it open, bundled Muse into body armor and a helmet, then began their exfil.

A M113 armored personnel carrier. (DOD photo)

The MH-6 Muse was loaded on took some hits. In a display of superb airmanship, the pilot would fly the helo down a side street until it was hit again and crashed. Ironically, Muse would help defend the perimeter until they were retrieved by U.S. Army armored personnel carriers.

Operation “Acid Gambit” ended with the mission accomplished.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Donald Trump has issued over 19 pardons and seven commutations so far.

On February 18, Donald Trump announced a slew of pardons and sentence reductions for some controversial individuals, furthering his track record of forgiving those with powerful connections.

Among this list includes Bernard Kerik, a former New York City police commissioner who was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of fraud and lying to the government, and Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois who was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

But Trump has also granted clemency to lesser known figures, including Alice Marie Johnson, a 64-year-old grandmother who was serving a life sentence for nonviolent drug offenses. Kim Kardashian helped bring her case to Trump's attention.