Opinion

Should Presidents Be Able to Pardon?

Reading time ~ 2 minutes

The presidential ability to “pardon” is nothing short of controversial, especially near the end of Trump’s term. Many have questioned his ability to erase the crimes of unlawful figures such as Joe Exotic, who he nearly relieved despite knowing about his multiple animal rights abuses and attempted murder as stated in the popular Netflix TV show “The Tiger King.”

But what exactly is pardoning? Simply put, a pardon is, “the act of the United States President setting aside the punishment for a federal crime.” Cases ranging from Richard Nixon to recent conflicts concerning rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black have been saved by pardons.

So should presidents have the power to pardon? The answer is a resounding maybe. In the past, Presidents in the past have used this tool for personal gain, but it wasn’t all negative.

Lil Wayne shown endorsing Trump weeks before his November 2020 Presidential election (CNN)

Historical Presidential Abuse of Pardoning

Time and time again, presidents have made many decisions which undermined the integrity of the American legal system. The issue of “pardoning” is the abuse of power. Any president is capable of pardoning any individual of their choosing. Back in 1973, President Richard Nixon issued Christmas pardons for his Watergate co-conspirators. In 1992, George H. W. Bush pardoned several Iran-Contra figures.

Last December, President Trump pardoned almost 15 people. It was for sympathetic allies, for loyal retainers, and even for family members. This power of the President is not subject to any legislative control. Congress can neither limit the effect of pardons, nor exclude the individual at hand. But like a coin, there is another side to this predicament. 

Image result for trump
President Trump

Historical Use of Pardons for Good

On Christmas Day 1868, President Andrew Johnson pardoned everyone who had fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. This decision formed the framework of subsequent unity of all Americans and helped the recovering nation win in the war against Spain 30 years later.

President Obama pardoned almost 2,000 individuals who were convicted of nonviolent drug offenses under harsher terms. There have been many pardons like this that focus on the rehabilitation of people and society. In instances much like this, pardoning can be seen as justifiable and morally correct. So what do we do? 

So what should America do?

Pardoning should continue to be used but with restrictions. The current system creates a situation easily susceptible to corruption and abuse. If it is restricted by legislation and barriers, pardoning could be a useful tool in protecting those wrongfully convicted. The constitution allowed pardoning with the hope that the president would   correct legal mistakes. We can achieve that with a few modifications to our government laws. All we can do as Americans is push for change. 

TL;DR

  1. The president’s ability to pardon is quite controversial. There have been countless occasions in history where this power has been confronted, but it has never been removed.
  2. There are cases of benevolent pardoning. President Obama pardoned drug offenders who received overly-harsh sentences.
  3. But, there have also been cases of unfair pardoning. Former President Nixon pardoned his co-conspirators in the Watergate Scandal, and Trump pardoned family members and others who are sympathetic to his party.
  4. The only solution is that this power to pardon should be restricted but still kept to some degree.

Sources:

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/presidential-pardon-power-explained

https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/how-the-president-grants-pardons-under-the-constitution

https://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2018-06-08/the-most-prominent-presidential-pardons-in-history

https://www.insider.com/list-of-most-famous-shocking-presidential-pardons-in-us-history

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