Clemency

Will Anybody Besides Michael Flynn Get Mercy from Lame Duck Trump?

The president has the worst record for clemency in modern history.

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President Donald Trump gave Michael Flynn a reason to be thankful over the holidays, announcing late Wednesday he was pardoning his former national security adviser. As Trump's administration wraps, will anybody else—especially anybody not directly connected to the president—get similar mercy?

Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about conversations with a Russian ambassador after Trump was elected but before Trump took office. Given the government's failure to directly tie Trump's administration to Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election, Flynn's prosecution feel like a last-ditch effort to collect somebody's scalp over all of what happened. It's extremely unlikely, after all, that the U.S. will ever actually get their hands on the Russians who allegedly did attempt to meddle with the election.

The FBI's treatment of Flynn is typical of how the bureau tries to salvage prosecutions when it can't prove underlying crimes. Flynn is no hero, and he has a troubling history of working for corrupt governments like Turkey's, but it's not justice to toss him in federal prison for failing to pin any other actual crimes on him. It's easy to reconcile the belief that Trump has some corrupt cronies with the idea that the government failed to make a good case that Flynn belongs in jail.

But will there be any additional acts of mercy from Trump that aren't heavily driven by politics or direct connections to the president?

Trump has made a big deal of having commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, then pardoning her, for her federal conviction back in the 1990s for involvement in a drug conspiracy. There's a reason why Johnson is the name Trump keeps bringing up: There aren't many others he could cite. Trump has a pretty terrible record when it comes to commutations and pardons: He has used his clemency powers less often than any modern president, even when compared to fellow one-termers George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter. Pew Research notes that Trump has used his clemency powers (either commuting a sentence or pardoning somebody entirely) 44 times during his presidency so far. The senior Bush used his clemency powers 77 times. Carter used it 566 times. Even Richard Nixon had a more merciful record.

Some are still hoping for some pardons of some high-profile targets of federal prosecution, such as surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. On the day Trump announced Flynn's pardon, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) again requested, as she has in the past, that Trump pardon the two men. Snowden still faces federal espionage charges for revealing the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance, even as that system has subsequently been reformed in part because of his actions. Assange faces a political prosecution that threatens to undermine the First Amendment because he helped Chelsea Manning (who had her sentence commuted under President Barack Obama) reveal classified information about the management of America's overseas wars.

Both should be pardoned. If it makes Trump feel better, pardoning them will anger all the right people. When he was vice president, President-elect Joe Biden tried to stop other countries from granting Snowden asylum. And several media pundits argue that Assange is not a "real" journalist deserving the protections of the First Amendment.

At the moment, though, Trump is still insisting that he really won the election, even as his challenges to the results in various states keep losing. Given his lack of mercy throughout his administration, it's not clear whether or why he'd suddenly offer a lot of mercy to others.

NEXT: Will a Historic House Vote on Marijuana Legalization Nudge Biden Toward More Ambitious Reforms?

Clemency Donald Trump Criminal Justice Julian Assange Edward Snowden Espionage Surveillance Russia Probe Pardons

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102 responses to “Will Anybody Besides Michael Flynn Get Mercy from Lame Duck Trump?

    1. grr, I was going to say it was a miracle Trump got anything done during his administration

      1. Also, I’m just going to put this out there….that there’s probably a strong association between number of people granted clemency by a president and the number of criminals they are personally acquainted with

        1. Not necessarily but Trump likely pardoned Flynn because his case has been lingering for months now this same judge heard one of Trump campaigns election fraud claims.

          Trump didnt want this federal judge to have any more distractions from when the SCOTUS smacks down Democrat election fraud.

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        2. But you saw that Trump’s numbers are the lowest, and he has by far the record for most close associates, campaign members, and staff members go to prison during his term. Way, way more than Obama or B. Clinton.

          https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/jan/09/facebook-posts/many-more-criminal-indictments-under-trump-reagan-/

          I think Trump’s numbers are low because he is lazy. He golfed somewhere around 300 times in 4 years, nearly double the rate of Obama. He also logs quite a lot of time on twitter and watching tv. This gets marked in his planner as “executive time”.

          Simply put, one cannot engage in so many useless endeavors and still have time to help the little people with an unjust prison sentence.

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          2. That’s right Mr. Oppresso.
            Sure the vast majority of Obama and Clinton’s pardons occurred at the end of their second terms between the election and the swearing in of their successor, but that hardly matters because orange man is very, very bad.

            1. It’s funny to watch Lying Jeffy lie about being a lefty, then turn around and continue to post like a lefty all the time.

          3. One reason his numbers are low, is because Reason is comparing full time in office pardon totals to Trump’s 3 3/4 years. Most Presidents issue a load of pardons on the way out. We don’t know yet if Trump intends to do the same.

            By the way, I’m not sure why you’d be impressed with other Presidents making sure that the DOJ left their administration alone. How is that a sign of being law abiding, that you don’t prosecute yourself?

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  1. I would like to see a break down of how many of the pardons came at the end of the second term

    1. I recall reading about Obama and W administrations and this is usually the case. The significant % of pardons come near the end of their second term. Sorry, no link.

      Also, seems like Shackford is jumping the shark here. Trump’s presidency isn’t over yet.

      1. You’re right. His presidency isn’t over until January 20th.

        1. 2025.

      2. “significant % of pardons come near the end of their second term”

        Yes, but Shackford hasn’t met the requisite number of orangemanbad articles in and had to catch up. He’s no overachiever like Sullum.
        Also both sides.

      3. “I recall reading about Obama and W administrations and this is usually the case.”

        I think there was a Reason article near the end of the Obama administration complaining about the low numbers of pardons/clemency, just before a deluge of them came out from Obama.

        1. And there were loads of articles after his first term about how he didn’t pardon anyone. Bonus corruption, of the people who are pardoned by lame duck presidents there are plenty of large donors sprinkled among their and a few crazy political allies like people from the weather underground who actually killed people.

          Presidents should be exercising clemency to see that justice is done. Obama seemed to move towards that in his waning months. Too bad he spent a bunch of that time trying to undermine the incoming administration rather than trying to pass along an apparatus for processing pardons and clemency that would work without political influence.

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  2. Most presidents do this in their second term which you helped sink. So blame yourselves. Maybe you can convince sleep Joe and commie Kamala to do your bidding. I am sure they are the exact kinds of leaders who care about the masses. Their records prove it right?

    1. Most presidents do this in their second term which you helped sink.

      Reason has that much influence? Holy fucking shit!

      1. It’s all our faults. We should be ashamed of ourselves. We’ll never get into Heaven at this rate.

      2. We know Sarc, you are so happy Biden won. You didn’t vote for him, wink wink, but you aren’t at all shook up about it.

        1. Careful, he might start crying and call you a mean girl.

          1. Mr. sarcasmic may be a fat, old, cishet, white man but he identifies as a bullied teenage girl.
            How dare you mock his identity.

            1. Who really knows sarc’s identity after he accidentally forgot to switch to one of his socks before responding to himself?

              https://reason.com/2020/11/30/libertarians-have-no-home-in-either-dominant-political-party/#comment-8611526

    2. Lefties at unreason wont admit that they want America to burn even thought is obvious in their propaganda every day.

  3. Poor Shackford.

    He still thinks Trump will not serve his second term 2021-2025.

    Biden “won”… HAHAHAHAHA.

    1. It’s okay. We all know you’re crying on the inside. Every. Day.

      1. I am sad that Democrats tried to get away with using massive election fraud and had so many co-conspirators.

        Even Trump winning his second term wont stave off the Commies who work at unreason and the regular media trying to burn America to the ground.

        I look forward to the House selecting Trump for his second term. Thank God for the Founders adding the 12th Amendment.

        1. I have two pages of unreason staff and their bots who will cry and cry like they did in 2016 when trump beat Hillary.

          My barrels are still getting filled with Lefty tears as they file lawsuits to prevent Trump from challenging the massive Democrat election fraud.

          1. Care to make a wager?

            1. Nobody should wager with a sociopath like you Lying Jeffy.

              Btw, I haven’t seen you post what day it is since I recommended you do that every day. Again, at least one post a day telling the truth is a good way to increase your ratio.

  4. I’d like to see Snowden pardoned, along with Assange.

    And on his way out the door, I hope AG Barr appoints a Special Counsel to look into all of Brain-Dead Biden’s business dealings. And then release Durham’s report, unredacted.

    1. A Snowden pardon would be symbolic. Pardoning Ross Ulbricht and Julian Assange would actually be substantial.

    2. Durham’s report? You mean the one that consists of some doodles on a legal pad and the phone number of that fancy law firm that he is going to get a cozy contract from after Biden takes office?

      They didn’t investigate squat. we found out everything we were going to find out when he let the lawyer who falsified the email in the warrant application walk. That was the end of it all. You can quit holding your breath now. There will be no reckoning. The swamp protects its own.

      1. Sadly true. Durham was just running out the clock, his “report” is going to be a total nothingburger, because he knew all along that he wasn’t going to prosecute anyone, so why bother doing any real investigating?

  5. Traditionally presidents do most of their pardons at the end of their terms. It’s what lame ducks do. But Trump refuses to consider that he lost the election, and so thinks he can get around to pardoning people at the end of 2024. Sigh.

    1. Thomas has not said he is retiring. I wonder why.

      He must know something the media does not. Which isnt hard.

      1. Thomas? Who is Thomas?

        Also, I’ll be eating popcorn as some dude from Pinkerton’s escorts Trump off the premises and the sheriff dumps his furniture on the Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk.

        1. that’s too funny

          1. Yes, I enjoy laughing along with my many sockpuppets too.

          2. This is what you call comedy?

        2. You poor people. You have to have your fantasies.

          I warned you about Trump winning. I warned you that RBG would die and be replaced by a Trump pick.

          1. So you’re a prophet now?

            1. I’m right a lot.

              But you wouldn’t know about being right. You’re doing a great job being wrong a lot.

              1. About?

                C’mon.

                Don’t toss out accusations of me being wrong without some example of a bad prediction.

                You’re not making me look bad here. You’re making yourself look like an ass.

              2. Like when you bragged about picking up stocks (because Trump was pumping stocks) the day prior to the single biggest day drop?

                It’s uncanny how consistently wrong you are.

                1. He was posting in 1929?

                  1. Nope. The biggest single day drop was this year. And just prior to it, Trump (and then his toadies) were pumping stocks.

                    At the end of February, Trump tweeted several times about stocks looking like a good deal and “very cheap”. On March 16th, the DOW suffered its worst single day drop in history.

                    Like I said, Trump and co are incredibly consistent in their complete inaccuracy. This is called a contra indicator lol.

                    https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/16/stock-market-plunge-coronavirus-131812

          2. Not everyone is like you, LC. Many people are actually capable of distinguishing their desires about how the world should be from reality. Believing that Trump will be out of the Whitehouse next January is not the same thing as celebrating a Biden victory. It’s actually possible to want one thing, yet acknowledge that reality is different. I know that’s hard for you to imagine in your weird little world where the constitution says whatever you think it should and the state of GA is a libertarian paradise.

            I honestly would like it if you are right about all of this. Biden will be very bad. I just don’t see it happening. Maybe I’m wrong, that would be great. But you are losing connection with reality here. And your constant accusations of anyone who won’t join in your fantasy as being Biden supporters is just retarded.

            1. >> acknowledge that reality is different

              you should spend more time being concerned about the fraud than acknowledging the “reality”.

                1. I seriously wonder about you guys.

                  Just join Scientology or something. They will at least give you a chance to get on a big boat and go somewhere. This cult you’re in now just takes your money and leaves you empty.

                  1. That’s right Mr. Oppresso, those kooks don’t believe that Joe Biden inspired the largest vote percentage increase in 120 years. Or that even though Drumpf increased his vote total by 7.3 million votes over 2016, he still lost. The first time in history a sitting president lost with that big of a vote gain. Or that some cities really did have 200% of the population vote.

                    How cultish of them…

              1. I’ve got time for both.

  6. Trump seems to target pardons for what it can do for himself. Make a political statement, or make sure a person keeps quiet. It seems strange that Snowden and Assange don’t get his attention. They might want to hint that they know something about him.

    You correct on both counts that Flynn doesn’t deserve jail time and that he is a sleezeball.

    1. You keep the Lefty fantasies alive.

      Trump offered anyone to bring a federal convict’s name forward for consideration.

      Lefties don’t care about anyone who doesnt make a political splash.

      Trump has a second term as President so he has plenty of time to pardon and commute sentences.

    2. Trump pardoned Flynn so Sidney Powell could devote all of her time and energy to challenge the fraudulent election.

      If/when Trump concedes, he’ll issue lots of pardons, and take many other major actions that will outrage Biden’s left wing Democrat handlers and the left wing media outlets.

      1. “Trump pardoned Flynn so Sidney Powell could devote all of her time and energy to challenge the fraudulent election.”

        That seems to be going great.

      2. I assume he pardoned Flynn because Sullivan shows no sign of relenting in his attempts to prosecute Flynn even though the DOJ tried to drop the charges.

  7. “Given the government’s failure to directly tie Trump’s administration to Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election”

    Guilt by association! Isn’t that how in works in the American Justice System? So, yeah!

  8. FWIW, Trump signed the First Step Act.

    “3,100 inmates to be released as Trump administration implements criminal justice reform”

    —-Washington Post

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/3100-inmates-to-be-released-as-trump-administration-implements-criminal-justice-reform/2019/07/19/7ed0daf6-a9a4-11e9-a3a6-ab670962db05_story.html

    That may not qualify as clemency per se, but it’s nothing to sneeze at.

    1. We’ll see what happens in The Age of Biden.

      1. hopefully we won’t.

      2. What will happen in the age of Biden is the 25th amendment.

    2. Came to post this. Is Reason even aware of anything that has happened beyond Russia the last 4 years? Wait until they find out about the Abraham Accords.

  9. I tend to check these sorts of TDS articles to see what was left out.

    They left out the First Step Act, which has cut some sentences which could otherwise have been subject to pardons.

    But by all means, let Trump schedule pardon hearings for some promising candidates…schedule the hearings to be held before the Pardon Attorney on January 21.

    1. The First Step Act doesn’t count because Trump didn’t mean it… because he’s literally Hitler.

  10. considering who past presidents have pardoned i don’t see the lack of pardons by Trump to be a metric to care about and it definetly is not a reflections of being good ro bad

  11. >>Flynn’s prosecution feel like a last-ditch effort to collect somebody’s scalp over all of what happened.

    feeeeel like. fuck you it was blatant and obvious. somebody owes Flynn his life back.

    1. And it isn’t some random somebody. Some nameless, faceless bottom feeder in the FBI or department of Justice. We know what happened. Flynn finally got discovery on his case, so we know exactly what happened.

      The Obama administration sent the FBI to investigate Flynn and spy on him with the intention of getting dirt on the Trump administration. After months of investigating, the FBI came back and reported that they found nothing derogatory about him.

      Comey took this information to the White House. He met directly with top White House officials including both Obama and Biden. When they found out that they had nothing on Flynn, Comey volunteered that he could send a couple of agents over to interview Flynn since they did not have procedures set up yet. The question was, what are the agents supposed to be interviewing him for? they specifically asked, are we interviewing him to get him fired or to charge him with a crime?

      The esteemed president-elect Joe Biden suggested that they prosecute him for Logan act violations because he was talking with foreign governments. Interestingly, this is the same thing his team has been doing for the last couple of weeks. A couple of those surrogates, including Brennan, have gone on television telling Tehran to just chill out until Biden takes office. Which was especially rich coming from Brennan, since Brennan and Comey were directly involved in going after Flynn for saying the exact same thing to Russia after Obama issued sanctions in the winning hours of his presidency.

      I used to think people who talked about how corrupt the government is were kind of nutty. But this run of openly corrupt actions taken in such unbelievably petty ways has lifted the scales from my eyes. I’m actually astonished about how bold they are about it.

      1. Flynn lied twice about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. And then twice confessed. If it was no big deal, then why did he lie? Why did everyone in Trump’s orbit lie about their contacts with the Russians, for that matter? Seems that it was known to keep the Trump campaign relationship with Russia on the DL.

        Obama warned Trump about Flynn, but in his typical manner he did not absorb the information.

        https://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/08/obama-warn-trump-michael-flynn-238116

        1. Obama warned Trump about Flynn

          Yes, President Lightbringer knew because he employed the Director of the FBI, the Deputy Director of the FBI, the Chief of the Counterespionage Section of the FBI, the Director of the CIA, the Director of National Intelligence, and members of the Justice Department and the State Department to spy gather dirt investigate Trump.

        2. And what was Flynn’s “sin”?

          His belief that China is a far bigger threat to the US than Russia.

          Used to be “libertarians” were opposed to prosecutors refusing to disclose information to defendants, but I guess that has also changed.

      2. >>Interestingly, this is the same thing his team has been doing for the last couple of weeks.

        “Logan Act? What Logan Act? Who’s Logan c’mon man I loved Logan’s Run”

    1. That’s an unfair generalization, many of them are meth addicts!

    2. That’s just offensive fat shaming.

  12. Trump’s not interested in mercy, he believes in justice. These people got what they deserved, end of story. If you start questioning whether or not they truly got what they deserved, you have to start questioning our whole justice system and Trump is remarkably incurious in that regard. Except for one or two people who tried to shaft him, everything’s just fine at the FBI and the CIA and the DoJ and in our court system. Our government mostly works just fine and that’s why Trump didn’t bother to even try to change most of it, it doesn’t need changing. Everything’s fine.

  13. Meanwhile head of the Lincoln Project is literally threatening violence and retribution for Trump supporters because cuck RINOs pretending to be conservative lost power in swampy DC.

    Bring it on bitch.

  14. I am surprised that Trump is loosing to HW Bush. The rest of the chart is kind of meaningless since most presidents seem to exercise this power in their 2nd term in the last year; but now that I think about it, Bush I believe pardoned anyone remotely involved in Iran-Contra – so not sure if that one issue covered the bulk of his.

    1. Also not sure how Carter’s blanket pardon of the draft dodgers calculates into his total.

  15. I just wish he’d pardon Assange – it would literally salvage his entire lame-ass presidency.

  16. won’t server to stroke Trump’s ego = Trump ain’t gonna do it.

  17. Well leftist propagandists like you would have been screaming obstruction of justice and the three stooges Pelosi, Nadler and Schiff would have been right there with the impeachment proceedings. Sorry you and your guildmates went all in as DNC propagandists so why treat you as honest brokers.

  18. Yes, just because somebody is a sleezy, like Flynn or Asange,, doesn’t mean they are necessarily a criminal. I wish Trump would pardon Snowden. Guaranteed Biden will not. And for the pardon of that lady it wasn’t because Trump loves justice, it is because KimKardashian lobbied him to do so. She needs to wear a tight dress, wear some slutty makeup, and then go back and lobby for more pardons. Yes, she is getting old, but she is still smokin…

    1. Van Jones was there. He said he was so moved by Trump’s decisive actions that he cried. He talked about how astonished he was that Trump just picked up the phone and made it happen.

      But it is OK. He got better. You won’t here him talk that way again.

      Kind of like the way Cuomo gushed about how Trump got him everything he needed… Until MSNBC went bananas. Then he figured out how much attention he could get by saying the opposite.

      Then there’s all the presidents of the historically black colleges who came to him for funding… Trump asked why they had to come hat in hand every year… And saw to it that they got more than they asked for and didn’t have to come back for years. They forgot that pretty quickly too.

      1. Cuomo gushed about Trump because Trump is petty and vindictive, and was purposefully holding up covid supplies to states whose governors were critical of Trump.

        This is the exact scenario that was raised during his impeachment. Trump will not act, will not help, without asking “What have you done for ME lately?”

        https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/28/trump-gretchen-whitmer-war-of-words-152759

        1. More projection?

  19. While Snowden and Assange should (and may) be pardoned, Scott Shackford’s insults of Trump won’t help achieve pardons.

    1. Trump doesn’t read, so I think we’re ok.

      1. Mr. Oppresso knows this because he saw a maymay about it on Twitter. He is very smart.

  20. I think that pardon total for Carter doesn’t include the amnesty for Vietnam War protesters.

  21. Is there any expectation that he may pardon Snowden and Assange? (And let’s add Manning to the list.) I sure hope he does.

    1. Fuck Manning to death. Let his punk bitch ass rot.

  22. All those presidents had the worst clemency record until their last month or so in office. Trump isn’t convinced he’s going, so he’s waiting like the others.

  23. Anything Reason writers want, by and large, should be avoided.

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