Even though he has so many of the personality traits needed for the job, there signs Donald Trump actually hates being president. However, there’s at least one thing he loves about the job — handing out commutations and pardons. Trump can’t get enough of presidential pardons, and you won’t believe how many he’s made.
We’ll go back in time looking at all the commutations and Trump presidential pardons, including his first controversial pardon (page 8) and the ways Trump is so different from the presidents before him (page 9). First, we’ll explain the difference between the two.
Commutations vs. Pardons
- One shortens a sentence, the other forgives a crime.
All presidents, including Donald Trump, have the power to take over if and when the criminal justice system is playing unfairly. A president’s ability to commute and pardon is in the Constitution, according to USA Today, but they are different:
- A pardon basically wipes away a crime. For all intents and purposes, it’s like nothing ever happened.
- A commutation is like Monopoly’s get out of jail free card. A person who gets a commutation is still a felon, but they’re done serving time for the crime.
Next: Donald Trump takes Kim Kardashian’s advice.
The time Donald Trump made commutations
Just a year and a half into his presidency, Trump signed two orders commuting sentences.
Alice Marie Johnson
Commutation date: June 6, 2018
We’re sure commutations and presidential pardons will keep coming during Donald Trump’s presidency, but this is one of the most prominent cases where Trump stepped in. It took some begging by Kim Kardashian, but Trump commuted Alice Marie Johnson’s life sentence for drug trafficking in June 2018.
Johnson leaves prison after serving 21 years for a non-violent drug offense. As we’ll see in a few minutes, this wasn’t the first time a celebrity swayed Trump regarding a pardon.
Next: Out of jail despite 86 federal counts.
Commutation date: Dec. 20, 2017
Rubashkin once owned a massive kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa before being convicted of 86 federal counts of bank, mail, and wire fraud. Democratic and Republican legislators agreed Rubashkin’s 27-year sentence from 2010 was too harsh, according to Fortune. Trump agreed and ended his prison term late in 2017.
Next: The Trump presidential pardons that wiped out crimes.
All the Trump presidential pardons
As of early June 2018, Donald Trump signed his name to five full pardons, according to the Justice Department, and all of them are high profile. Let’s take a look back at each of them.
Pardon date: May 31, 2018
Conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza was convicted of campaign contribution fraud in September 2014, but less than four years later he benefited from a Trump presidential pardon. D’Souza claimed President Barack Obama singled him out for prosecution, according to The New York Times, and Trump agreed.
Next: Another case where a celebrity influenced Trump’s decision.
Pardon date: May 24, 2018
John Arthur Johnson was better known as Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion. Trump pardoned him in May 2018. And who helped him reach that decision? None other than fictional boxing champ and wealthy actor Sylvester Stallone. Unfortunately, Johnson didn’t get a chance to enjoy the pardon since he died in 1946.
Next: He’s in debt to Republicans forever.
Pardon date: April 13, 2018
Lewis “Scooter” Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in March 2007 for leaking the name of a CIA agent. These days, he’s probably trying to repay his debt to the Republican party. George W. Bush made a controversial move and commuted his sentence in 2007 before Donald Trump issued a full pardon in 2018.
Next: A judge didn’t buy the defense, so Trump handed out a pardon.
Pardon date: March 9, 2018
In August 2016, former Navy Sailor Kristian Saucier pleaded guilty to taking photos in a classified area of a submarine. In court, he argued his crime was similar to Hillary Clinton’s private email server controversy, but that she didn’t go to jail. As CNN reports, a judge didn’t buy it, but it doesn’t matter. Less than two years later, Saucier received a presidential pardon from Donald Trump.
Next: Trump’s first pardon was extremely controversial.
Pardon date: Aug. 27, 2017
The first of Donald Trump’s presidential pardons might have been the most controversial. Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff for Arizona’s Maricopa County, ignored a court order to stop profiling Latinos, which led to a contempt of court conviction in July 2017.
The pardon happened between the conviction and sentencing, meaning Arpaio totally avoided jail time. Trump tried to get the Justice Department to go easy on Arpaio in the first place, which is disturbing behavior for a president.
Next: How Donald Trump compares to every other president.
How Donald Trump is different
- Three ways Trump handles pardons differently than his predecessors.
When it comes to issuing commutations and pardons, there are at least three ways Donald Trump does things differently.
- Presidents typically do most pardoning late in terms. For instance, most of Barack Obama’s pardons happened in January 2017, and most of Bill Clinton’s happened between November 2000 and January 2001, after the election.
- Each of the last three presidents — Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton — waited at least two years before issuing pardons. Trump, on the other hand, waited only a little more than seven months before handing out his first pardon to Arpaio.
- Commutations and pardons usually happen in bunches, but Trump does his one-by-one for maximum effect in the media.
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