The power to par­don

Imperial Valley Press - - OPINION - MARK L. HOP­KINS You can reach Dr. Mark L. Hop­kins at pres­net@pres­

Ru­mors and in­nu­endo con­tinue to swirl around the spe­cial coun­sel’s of­fice and four crim­i­nal in­dict­ments al­ready have been is­sued. Con­sid­er­ing the neg­a­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties of the sit­u­a­tion it is not sur­pris­ing that I have re­ceived sev­eral queries about pres­i­den­tial par­dons.

Yes, all pres­i­dents have the power to par­don those who have bro­ken the law. Such par­don power was writ­ten into the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion in 1787. There was no small amount of dis­agree­ment among the del­e­gates on that sub­ject in that first Con­sti­tu­tional Con­ven­tion.

Ed­mund Ran­dolph, a staunch fed­er­al­ist, voiced fear that “with par­don power a trai­tor­ous pres­i­dent could shield him­self from jus­tice.” Ge­orge Ma­son, au­thor of the Bill of Rights, imag­ined par­don power to be used to “screen from pun­ish­ment those the pres­i­dent had in­sti­gated to com­mit the crime.”

Still, the ma­jor­ity of the del­e­gates at the con­ven­tion be­lieved the pres­i­dent should have the power to par­don. So, it was writ­ten into our Con­sti­tu­tion in Ar­ti­cle II, Sec­tion 2, Clause 1.

“... and he shall have Power to grant Re­prieves and Par­dons for Of­fenses against the United States ex­cept in cases of im­peach­ment.”

Thus, it was never en­vi­sioned by the vot­ing del­e­gates that a pres­i­dent might be al­lowed to par­don the per­son he sees in his mir­ror.

Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton was the first to use the par­don. He par­doned two who were in­volved in the Whisky Re­bel­lion (A tax re­bel­lion in western Penn­syl­va­nia.). He said one was a “sim­ple­ton,” and the other was, “in­sane.”

Abra­ham Lin­coln granted 343 par­dons, many to Union Army de­sert­ers fac­ing ex­e­cu­tion. He said, “If Almighty God gives a man a cow­ardly pair of legs, how can he help their run­ning away with him?” It should be noted that one of the first Con­fed­er­ates to ap­ply for a par­don and swear an oath of al­le­giance to the United States was Gen­eral Robert E. Lee. He said, “True pa­tri­o­tism some­times re­quires of men to act ex­actly con­trary, at one pe­riod, to that which it does at an­other.” In con­trast, Confederate Pres­i­dent Jef­fer­son Davis re­fused a par­don stat­ing, “Re­pen­tance must pre­cede the right of par­don, and I have not re­pented.”

Well-known per­son­al­i­ties who have com­mit­ted crimes and been par­doned by pres­i­dents in­clude the fol­low­ing: Henry Os­sian Flip­per, the first black grad­u­ate of a mil­i­tary academy (Clin­ton); Eu­gene V. Debs, an anti-draft ac­tivist be­fore WWI (Harding); Iva D’Aguino, she was the cel­e­brated Tokyo Rose, made fa­mous as a spokesper­son for Ja­pan in WWII (Ford); W. Mark Felt, the Water­gate scan­dal’s “Deep Throat” (Rea­gan); Roger Clin­ton Jr., con­victed of drug charges (Clin­ton); Scooter Libby, con­victed of ob­struct­ing jus­tice (Ge­orge W. Bush); Chelsea Man­ning, in­dicted for es­pi­onage (Obama).

Per­haps the most cel­e­brated par­don of mod­ern times is that given to Richard Nixon by Pres­i­dent Ger­ald Ford. Nixon, while still pres­i­dent, knew when he was forced to turn over the Water­gate tapes to the spe­cial prose­cu­tor that he would be im­peached and con­victed of ob­struct­ing jus­tice. Con­tem­plat­ing res­ig­na­tion to avoid im­peach­ment, he im­plored Vice Pres­i­dent Ger­ald Ford to guar­an­tee that upon tak­ing of­fice he would par­don Nixon. Ford re­fused. Hav­ing no other op­tion, Nixon re­signed. (Aug. 9, 1974)

In Septem­ber 1974, Pres­i­dent Ford granted Nixon a par­don. He jus­ti­fied it in two ways. First, he said we needed to “end our long na­tional night­mare.” Sec­ond, he cited the Supreme Court case of Bur­dick vs. The United States (1919), where the Supreme Court found that ac­cep­tance of the par­don was an ad­mis­sion of guilt. Thus, when Nixon ac­cepted the par­don he was, in fact, ad­mit­ting guilt in the Water­gate cover-up. Thus, Pres­i­dent Ford felt strongly that he ended the “night­mare,” but not with­out Nixon ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for his crimes.

All Pres­i­dents ex­cept Wil­liam H. Har­ri­son and James A. Garfield is­sued par­dons. Franklin D. Roo­sevelt granted the most (2,819), fol­lowed by Tru­man (1,913) and Eisen­hower (1,087). Ge­orge H. W. Bush granted the fewest (74), fol­lowed by Ge­orge W. Bush (189) and Barak Obama (212).

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