Donald Trump has developed an appetite for one of the unchecked powers of the US presidency: the pardon.
After 17 months in office, he has:
- Claimed he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself.
- Pardoned or commuted sentences when lobbied by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Sylvester Stallone.
- Reportedly started preparing paperwork for at least 30 more pardons.
The Washington Post reports that the US president has become “fixated” (paywall) on the topic. Several of his pardons (or promises to pardon) appear designed to undo the work of Trump’s antagonists, like Preet Bharara and James Comey.
Pardoning people this early in office bucks a trend set by his three predecessors, according to Department of Justice data. None of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton issued a single pardon or commutation in their first two years as presidents; in contrast, Trump has signed five pardons and two commutations in less than 17 months.
Trump’s style of pardon goes back to the presidents of yore: most recently, George H.W. Bush issued nine pardons and one commutation in his first year (he issued zero in his second year). Presidents Reagan, Carter, Ford and Nixon each handed out dozens of pardons in during their first 18 months.
A look at the data shows that Gerald Ford is an anomaly in modern presidential history, dishing out 147 pardons in his first year and ending up with 382 in total by the end of his two and a half years in office. He also granted the most notorious pardon in history: that of predecessor Richard Nixon.
On the other hand, while Obama issued a low number of pardons, he handed out more commutations than any other president—with 1,715.