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Opinion: Get ready for a flood of Trump pardons

October 29, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

President Donald Trump listens as Nevada business leaders talk at Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Win or lose, President Donald Trump may well seek to pardon members of his family, officials in his administration, and possibly himself -- even, as Gerald Ford did for Richard Nixon, before any of them are convicted of anything, writes Mark Osler.

The power of clemency should be used as part of a broader project of criminal law reform, reaching those who have been forgotten.

Even in the last debate, neither candidate talked about how they would use clemency prospectively, even in a heated discussion on criminal justice.

Trump and Biden present very different issues relating to clemency (which includes the power to shorten sentences through a commutation or forgive convictions through pardons).

Similarly, Joe Biden hasn't been pressed on the issue, and he certainly doesn't seem to have thought much about it: In response to a general question about criminal justice by NBC's Lester Holt at a town hall, Biden claimed that the Obama administration granted clemency to "18,000 people. " He was off by about 16,000 (he did better in the last debate, citing the number as "over 1,000").

Failing to focus on clemency when it matters also lets candidates off the hook for any specific plan for reform.

Right now, the clemency review process has seven steps, is controlled by the Department of Justice (conflicted because it sought the over-long sentences in the first place), and simply doesn't work.

For one thing, other reforms don't do what one form of clemency, pardons, can do: free people from the restrictions of a conviction after they have completed a sentence.

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