With just days left in President Donald Trump’s administration, published reports say he is considering up to 100 pardons before he leaves office Wednesday, leaving some in Washington to wonder what the president’s final days in office will look like.
The out-going president is expected to announce his decision Tuesday. The questions of just how many pardons or commutations might be granted has some wondering if Trump will preemptively pardon his family, himself and top advisers.
Just last year it was former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich who was allowed an early prison exit last year, thanks to the commutation of his sentence by Trump.
Northwestern Law professor Juliet Sorensen says Blagojevich was viewed sympathetically by Trump as he was “an individual Trump has stated was wrongly accused and convicted of corruption; a beleaguered politician.”
Pardons in the final days of a presidency are not unusual. Former President Barack Obama commuted or pardoned more than 300 people on his last full day in office in 2017. Most of those sentences were for low level drug offenders serving mandatory sentences.
While some have wondered publicly whether those charged with federal crimes in connection to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by supporters of the president will receive preemptive pardons, Sorensen doesn’t envision that happening.
“It’s probably too vague to protect people whom the various prosecutors and US Attorney’s offices are considering charging,” she said. “I don’t think it would bring those folks the level of protection they might want.”
Rep. Raja Krishnimoorthi is introducing legislation to reform presidential pardon power in an effort to increase transparency.
“Right now, he could pardon himself, he could pardon his associates, family members and others in secret,” he said.
Krishnimoorthi and some other lawmakers are currently planning to attend the inauguration, even after the events of Jan. 6. With the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden set for noon eastern time Wednesday means members of Congress are returning to the Capitol today to witness the transfer of power in person.
All members of Congress who are attending the Inauguration in person must first be tested for COVID-19 at the Pentagon on Tuesday. They’ve also been told to prepare for their own security and if they purchase a bullet proof vest, they will be reimbursed.
“We’re kind of evaluating the situation as it evolves right now,” Krishnimoorthi said. “Suffice it to say with 20,000 National Guard troops around us and other security, it should be a secure event.”