George Bush announced the pardons of 14 individuals and commuted 2 prison sentences today, and many more are expected to receive the same breaks before the president concludes his term on January 20.
The new round of White House pardons announced Monday are Bush's first since March and come less than two months before he will end his presidency. The crimes committed by those on the list also include offenses involving hazardous waste, food stamps, and the theft of government property.
Bush has been stingy during his time in office about granting clemency, but more grants are expected.
Including these actions, he has granted a total of 171 pardons and eight commutations. That's less than half as many as Presidents Clinton or Reagan issued during their time in office. Both were two-term presidents, like Bush.
Those pardoned include:
- Leslie Owen Collier
- Milton Kirk Cordes
- Richard Micheal Culpepper
- Brenda Jean Dolenz-Helmer
- Andrew Foster Harley
- Obie Gene Helton
- Carey C. Hice Sr.
- Geneva Yvonne Hogg
- William Hyle McCright Jr.
- Robert Earl Mohon Jr.
- Ronald Alan Mohrhoff
- Daniel Figh Pue III
- Orion Lynn Vick
The President of the United States has the power, by order of the Constitution, to grant pardons for federal offenses against America, except in the case of impeachment. Pardon petitions are addressed to the President, who can either grant or deny the prisoner's request.
Many pardons have been controversial; critics argue that pardons have been used more often for the sake of political expediency than to correct judicial error. One of the more famous recent pardons was granted by President Gerald Ford to former President Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974, for official misconduct which gave rise to the Watergate scandal. Polls showed a majority of Americans disapproved of the pardon and Ford's public-approval ratings tumbled afterward. Other controversial uses of the pardon power include Andrew Johnson's sweeping pardons of thousands of former Confederate officials and military personnel after the American Civil War, Jimmy Carter's grant of amnesty to Vietnam-era draft evaders, George H. W. Bush's pardons of 75 people, including six Reagan administration officials accused and/or convicted in connection with the Iran-Contra affair, Bill Clinton's pardons of convicted FALN terrorists and 140 people on his last day in office - including billionaire fugitive Marc Rich, and George W. Bush's commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison term.
However, the President also has the ability to pardon someone before they have been convicted - or even charged. This pre-emptive pardon has come up in the news lately, as some anticipate Bush may explore this route before he leaves office:
One hot topic of discussion related to pardons is whether Bush might decide to issue pre-emptive pardons before he leaves office to government employees who authorized or engaged in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Some constitutional scholars and human rights groups want the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama to investigate possible war crimes.
If Bush were to pardon anyone involved, it would provide protection against criminal charges, particularly for people who were following orders or trying to protect the nation with their actions. But it would also be highly controversial.