As Trump prepares to leave office, his pardon power may well be a defining part of his legacy. Rather than merely serving partisan ends, he can and should use the pardon power for good. By doing so, he can help to unify the country after this year’s contentious presidential election.
Let’s start with the positive examples of pardons and commutations.
President Warren Harding
President Jimmy Carter
By contrast, these presidential pardons stirred further division and hurt the country in the long run.
President Gerald Ford
President Bill Clinton
The history of pardons and commutations reveals the broad powers granted to the president under Article II of the Constitution. The power to transform a person’s life should be a cherished part of American democracy. However, presidential pardons do not always serve the best interests of the people, even when presidents intend to do so. Whether Trump will act for the good of the American people — and not just in self-interest — will be a closely watched aspect of his lame-duck presidency.