President Obama pardoned or shortened the sentences of 231 convicted criminals Monday. That’s the largest number of individual clemencies ever granted by a U.S. president. And he still has 30 days left in his term.
Thankfully, he won’t be able to do much more than individual pardons, since the Supreme Court sided with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in a one-line per curiam ruling blocking Obama’s attempt at blanket amnesty for illegal aliens.
In the White House blog, White House Counsel Neil Eggleston wrote:
The 231 individuals granted clemency today have all demonstrated that they are ready to make use — or have already made use — of a second chance. While each clemency recipient’s story is unique, the common thread of rehabilitation underlies all of them.
The theme here is “second chances.” Obama has given more of these–by far–than any previous president going back to Truman. Including the 1,176 previously given, the new total is 1,324.
President Obama is within his constitutional executive authority to grant all this individual clemency, but that speaks more to his doubts and opposition to America’s justice system. Of those granted clemency Monday, 54 were serving life sentences.
We don’t yet know what President-elect Trump will do once in office. He’s fashioned himself the “law and order” president. Will that mean more convictions and less commutations, or will Trump find a soft spot for federal convicts serving sentences they would not receive today?
Where Obama failed to grant amnesty, will Congress and a new Trump administration, that wants to build a wall, turn on its campaign promises and instead do what the Gang of Eight tried?
It’s more likely that Obama will keep his legacy as the biggest granter of clemency and pardons since FDR.