Dec 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Trump pardons expected today

Donald Trump walking outside making a triumphant fist
Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Trump plans to issue a wave of pardons today, moving to expedite acts of clemency before Christmas, according to a source with direct knowledge and advocates who have been briefed on the plans.

What to watch: Trump has been considering pardons for friends and allies, as Axios reported, interrupting conversations with associates to spontaneously suggest he add them to his pardon list. He already pardoned his former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

  • It was unclear who will be included in this batch.
  • Sen. Rand Paul called on Trump to pardon Edward Snowden in an article for The Federalist on Thursday. A source with direct knowledge of the planning said they did not expect Trump to follow through with a Snowden pardon.

The big picture: Trump has considered several controversial pardons, including for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

  • The president has even mulled preemptive pardons for family members, per the New York Times, concerned that President-elect Joe Biden will target them. Biden has said his Justice Department would be apolitical.
  • Meanwhile, Trump has taken an intense interest in the federal investigation of Biden’s son, Hunter. His final episode of fury at Attorney General Bill Barr, in the days before Barr resigned, was because Barr had not publicized the Hunter Biden investigation before the election.

By the numbers: Despite his recent eagerness to pardon, Trump's clemency rate is lower than his predecessors'.

  • As of late November, Trump had granted clemency just 44 times — the lowest total of any president since at least William McKinley, according to Pew Research Center.
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