President Donald Trump

26 December 2020.

Obama issued 116 pardons and 711 commutations during his 2 terms. Clinton pardoned 305 people during his tenure of 2 terms. Most of the offenders pardoned were for drug or fraud related offences. For 125 years, the key adviser to the president on clemency has been the Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) which normally reviews all requests for pardons.

President Donald Trump has issued 44 pardons and 21 commutations as of December 22, 2020. However, Trump has often bypassed the OPA, and, unlike previous presidents, has made many of his grants of executive clemency to “well-connected offenders who had not filed petitions with the pardon office or did not meet its requirements. On 19 February 2020, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy questioned the basis used by Trump in deciding to grant clemency to 11 people on the preceding day. Trump’s reply was that he was the “chief law enforcement officer of the country.”

Some of those who received executive clemency from Trump were his supporters or political allies. Notably Roger Stone was the first to receive political clemency. Stone was convicted by a jury on seven charges relating to his actions during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. Stone is a friend and adviser of Trump, who was a member of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

On 23 December 2020, the President announced 26 new pardons, to those including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner’s father, Charles.
The pardons of Manafort and Stone were two of the most high-profile and widely condemned actions of the President. Charles Kushner, was convicted for tax evasion, witness tampering and illegal campaign contributions.

The President is now proposing to grant pre-emptive pardons to his children, to his son-in-law and to his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.

It is true that in some developing countries when the governments change the previous head of state and his allies are prosecuted and jailed for corruption. Some times this is done to take vengeance and sometimes it for the blatant corruption of the previous regime. This type of prosecution or conviction has never happened in the United States.

A President cannot act firmly on issues if he looses his immunity after he leaves his office. Therefore some degree of protection is necessary. Thirty two nations have legislation in place granting immunity to past presidents during their lifetime. There is no such law in the Unites States. But there is no precedence of such prosecution happening in the United States.

Joe Biden’s Administration will be under enormous pressure from elements in his party to investigate Trump. But that doesn’t mean Biden will do it. Biden has said he would let the Justice Department decide whether to challenge that norm with Trump.

Trump is angry that some Republicans have acknowledged his loss to Democrat Joe Biden in the Nov 3 election. Peeved Trump is behaving like a spoiled brat as he vetoed a bipartisan defence policy Bill on Wednesday (Dec 24) and raised the possibility that the country could face a government shutdown starting a new turmoil in Washington as he headed to Florida for celebrating Christmas. The bill was passed by the Congress by wide, bipartisan margins after months of negotiation. The funds for the US$900 billion corona virus aid is also held in abeyance. The President will approve these two bills when he returns from his Christmas holidays.

Channel News Asia reported.