Trump par­don breaks with tra­di­tion

Pres­i­dent had sig­naled in­ten­tion to pro­tect Ar­paio

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

USA TO­DAY WASH­ING­TON Al­most ev­ery­thing about Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s par­don Fri­day of for­mer Ari­zona sher­iff Joe Ar­paio was un­usual.

Trump chose a po­lit­i­cally po­lar­iz­ing anti-im­mi­gra­tion sher­iff as the re­cip­i­ent of his first par­don — the kind of con­tro­ver­sial cle­mency re­cent pres­i­dents have re­served for the 11th hour rather than their first act.

Ar­paio didn’t meet the Jus­tice De­part­ment guide­lines for a par­don. His con­vic­tion wasn’t five years old, he hadn’t ex­pressed re­morse and he hadn’t ap­plied to the Of­fice of Par­don At­tor­ney.

The day be­fore, press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee Sanders said Trump would fol­low a “thor­ough and stan­dard process” in con­sid­er­ing the par­don. That process usu­ally re­quires seven lay­ers of re­view and an FBI back­ground check.

No mat­ter. The con­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity to “grant par­dons and reprieves for of­fenses against the United States” is ar­guably the most ab­so­lute power a pres­i­dent has.

He has to work with Congress to pass bills, ap­point cab­i­net sec­re­taries or ne­go­ti­ate treaties. But a par­don can be granted with the stroke of a pen — some­times not even that — and can’t be over­turned by the Congress or the courts. Once de­liv­ered, not even the pres­i­dent him­self can take it back.

De­spite the ab­so­lute na­ture of the power — or per­haps be­cause of it — pres­i­dents are of­ten down­right shy about it.

Pres­i­dent Harry Tru­man didn’t pub­licly dis­close his par­dons. Pres­i­dent Ger­ald Ford par­doned his pre­de­ces­sor, Richard Nixon, on a Sun­day morn­ing with­out warn­ing. Pres­i­dent George H.W. Bush par­doned key fig­ures in the Iran-Con­tra af­fair only af­ter los­ing re-elec­tion. Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton par­doned fugi­tive fi­nancier Mark Rich, two Demo­cratic con­gress­men, a fig­ure in the White­wa­ter scan­dal and his own brother — all on his last day in of­fice.

None of them tele­graphed their in­ten­tions quite like Trump. “I think he’s go­ing to be just fine,” Trump said at a cam­paign rally in Phoenix Tues­day.

On Fri­day night, Trump tweeted one of his rea­sons for the par­don, say­ing Ar­paio “kept Ari­zona safe.”

Joe Ar­paio

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