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Tag: Pardons

Trump Lawyer Reportedly Offered Pardons to Two Top Trump Campaign Aides

Trump’s former lead attorney John Dowd.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

One of Donald Trump’s lawyers floated the idea of pardoning two of the president’s former advisers who have been charged in the special counsel investigation of Russia and Trump’s campaign, The New York Times first reported Wednesday

According to three people with knowledge of the discussions, the lawyer, John Dowd, who resigned last week, broached the possibility of pardons while the special counsel was building cases against the top campaign aides, Michael T. Flynn and Paul Manafort.

The timing of the pardon discussions with the men’s attorneys raise questions about whether the White House was trying to influence Flynn and Manafort to plead not guilty. It’s unclear whether the president was aware of the discussions.

Down denied having the pardon discussions with the advisers’ lawyers.

“There were no discussions. Period,” Dowd said. “As far as I know, no discussions.”

Trump attorney Ty Cobb also denied the report.

“I have only been asked about pardons by the press and have routinely responded on the record that no pardons are under discussion or under consideration at the White House,” he said.

Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and has agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty and could face trial as early as this fall.

President Obama’s Dramatic Commutation Plan

By Ross Parker
ticklethewire.com

This column recently presented the historic changes made by the Obama Administration to change the direction of drug enforcement, drug offender punishment and treatment for drug abusers. For the first time in four decades the executive branch has embarked on a systematic and multi-front program to reduce the penalties for convicted drug traffickers.

But it has also provided a program for early treatment of drug users who previously were limited to emergency rooms after overdoses followed by expensive hospital stays and limited rehabilitation.

One of the methods used by the President to affect the punishment scheme has been to wield his pardon and commutation power. President Obama has already set records by his commutation policy with 185 reduced sentences, 171 of which were in 2015, more than the combined number of the previous five Presidents combined.  Most of those grants have involved convicted drug traffickers serving long term prison sentences. The offenders chosen had little or no history of violence and were not repeat offenders.

Article II, section 2 of the Constitution, Clause 1 provides:  The President…shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment. The President’s clemency authority stems from the practice of Anglo-Saxon Kings to pardon, and it has not been seriously challenged either by Congress or the courts since it was included in the Constitution over two hundred years ago. It is now firmly ingrained in American public policy.

president obama- white house photo

Executive pardons and commutations are sometimes confused. Pardons are an expression of forgiveness by the President which removes the effects of a conviction, such as civil disabilities like voting, holding office or possessing firearms. Commutations, on the other hand, do not affect the conviction and only reduce sentences. The civil disabilities remain in effect. For example, a pardon can remove the legal basis for immigration deportation whereas a commutation will not.

Not since the period of 1919-1923 under the administrations of Presidents Wilson and Harding have substantial numbers of commutations been granted. During the period of 1986 to 1998 only 6 commutations were granted. Only President Johnson of the modern Presidents regularly used commutations under his executive clemency power. Other Presidents have used it sparingly: Nixon (60), Ford (22), Carter (29), Reagan (13), H.W. Bush (3), Clinton (61), Bush (11).

Now there is reason to believe that the final year of Obama’s Presidency will witness unprecedented numbers of commutations and pardons, potentially thousands, a total which will exceed any action in American history. Over 19,000 commutation petitions have been received, as many as the previous eight Presidents combined. The private pro bono group The Clemency Project is presently reviewing tens of thousands of additional petition requests for potential submission to the Office of Pardon Attorney in the Justice Department.

This onslaught is largely the result of DOJ’s announcement in April 2014 of an initiative to encourage qualified inmates to file petitions to reduce their sentences.

In 2015 President Obama spread his message of drug penalty reform to an Oklahoma prison, the first sitting President to make such an appearance. Petition requests are conditioned on a record of non-violence, a likelihood of a lower sentence under recent legislative and Sentencing Commission changes, a low-level role without significant ties to criminal organizations, gangs or cartels, custody for at least 10 years, and good conduct in prison.

DOJ recently announced an intention to hire 16 new Attorney Advisors (salary range $92,145 to $141,555) for the Office of Pardon Attorney to help process the clemency petitions and prepare recommendations to the Deputy Attorney General and the President. This move demonstrates what a high priority the initiative has in the Department and the Administration.

Criticism of Obama’s plan comes from various law enforcement and GOP sources. The President of the National Association of United States Attorneys considers his drug “reform” measures to be inconsistent with the long term security of the country. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte complained to the Attorney General that the initiative is unconstitutional, a “blatant usurpation of law making authority of the legislative branch.”

It would not be surprising for there to be legal action against the President’s plan. But it is doubtful that a court would eventually interfere (although there is some authority in dictum by Chief Justice Burger in the 1974 case of Schick v. Reed that pardons which violate other provisions of the Constitution could be invalid). However, any stay ordered by a federal judge in connection with a civil action could affect the President’s timetable. He has almost exactly one year, January 17, 2017, when the new President is sworn in, to take action.

Expect a staggering number of inmate releases in the next twelve months through commutations, probably several thousand, by far the largest number in U.S. history. Plus over 8,000 releases of inmates as a result of re-sentencing after the Obama-initiated changes by the Sentencing Commission of the Sentencing Guidelines. The combined effect will be one of the most spectacular actions by a President in the waning days of his presidency.

Whether the policy will ultimately be beneficial to the public or a dangerous miscalculation will be much debated by historians and in early morning diner klatches around America for years to come.

Justice Dept. Fights to Keep Rejected Pardons and Commutations Secret

shhhhBy Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, which vowed to have more transparency in government, is working very hard to keep some secrets.

At issue: The names of more than 9,200 people President George W. Bush denied pardons and commutations, the National Law Journal reports.

Last year, a D.C. federal judge ruled against the Obama Justice Department and said the names should be made public. The Justice Department has appealed that ruling, insisting the privacy interest of the applicants outweigh the public’s right to know.

“The case is a politically sensitive one for the Justice Department, given Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.’s involvement in the decision to pardon fugitive Marc Rich at the end of the Clinton administration,” the Journal wrote. “The Rich pardon turned into a Washington scandal that compelled Holder to apologize for mistakes when it came up during his confirmation hearing last year.

The Journal wrote that the case applies only to the Bush years, but could open up the door for the public to see applicants from other administrations.

Under the current policy, the Justice Department can confirm a specific pardon, but won’t comment on a list of denials, the Journal reported.

Since October 2009, Obama has received 382 pardon petitions and 2,275 applications for commutation, but none have been acted upon at this time, the Journal reported.

The Journal said the case was initiated by retired Washington Post reporter George Lardner, who is writing a book on the history of clemency.

To read more click here.

Who Will Bush Pardon at Last Moment?

You just know President Bush will pardon some big names just before he exits 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The question now is simply Who?

By Scott Horton
The American Lawyer

For George Washington there was an obvious time for potentially controversial pardons, and that was the day he left office. Washington pardoned the instigators of the Whiskey Rebellion as his last official act. He had good reason to keep a low profile. The Federalists hated the decision. They thought it would fuel uprisings by moonshine-swilling frontiersmen-and they were right.
The tradition of controversial pardons has continued ever since. Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon remains the benchmark, but George H.W. Bush’s pardon of 75 people caught up in the Iran-Contra scandal and Bill Clinton’s pardon of fugitive billionaire and presidential library supporter Marc Rich register high on the scale.
Ironically, the Rich pardon was engineered by two people very much in the news. One is Scooter Libby, who was a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Dechert at the time. Libby, of course, was convicted of obstruction of justice and perjury in the Valerie Plame affair. His sentence was commuted by President George W. Bush; he is now seeking an extension of that commutation to a full-blown pardon.
The other is Attorney General-designate Eric Holder Jr., who served as deputy attorney general in the last days of the Clinton presidency and pushed the Rich pardon. Holder antici­pates embarrassing questioning on the pardon issue when his nomination comes before the Senate Judiciary Committee, but at present it doesn’t look like a show-stopper.
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