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Trumped? 7 Bigger Presidential Pardons, Which Started With George Washington

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Trumped? 7 Bigger Presidential Pardons, Which Started With George Washington
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President Donald Trump, perhaps practicing pardoning himself should wrongdoing emerge from the investigation into his Russia dealings, isn't the first Oval Office occupant to exercise this sweeping power.

With Hurricane Harvey bearing down on Texas, Trump on Friday night pardoned infamous Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of ethnically motivated arrests of Latinos on suspicion of being illegal aliens. Presidential pardons can't be overturned by Congress or courts.

Presidents usually save their most controversial pardons until right before turning off the lights and leaving the White House. Trump's pardon of Arpaio comes just seven months into the president's term.

Here’s a look at seven other presidential pardons that created enormous controversy.

Barack Obama

Obama commuted the sentence of former Army soldier Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of stealing 750,000 pages of documents. Manning was serving a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Her prison sentence now expires May 17.

The material, published in 2010, included a classified video of a U.S. helicopter attacking civilians and journalists in Iraq in 2007. Manning, a transgender woman, would not be able to serve in the military under another stunning move made by Trump on Friday: signing an executive order banning transgender people from the armed forces.

Gerald R. Ford

After assuming the presidency in the wake of President Richard Nixon’s resignation because of revelations from Watergate, Ford took enormous heat when he pardoned his predecessor. Ford argued that the pardon was a way of healing the country by getting Nixon out of the fractured public consciousness.

George Washington

The “Whiskey Rebellion” produced one of the stranger moments in the history of presidential pardons. In January 1791, President George Washington's Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton proposed an excise tax "upon spirits distilled within the United States.” Distillers in Western Pennsylvania went bananas. The president himself led an army to put down the rebellion. Washington then pardoned the leaders who were convicted of treason.

Andrew Johnson

The Veep who succeeded an assassinated Abraham Lincoln, Johnson’s term was fraught with peril and impeachment proceedings that fell one vote short of ouster by the U.S. Senate. While the nation was still psychically wounded by the Civil War, Johnson granted a blanket amnesty to soldiers in the Confederate Army.

George H.W. Bush

The scandal of President Ronald Reagan’s administration was the Iran-Contra affair, in which the United States sought to sell weapons to Iran and divert that money to the rightist rebels seeking to topple the leftist government in Nicaragua. Bush pardoned Iran-Contra conspirators such as Caspar Weinberger and Elliott Abrams, who both went on to serve under Bush, Jr.

Bill Clinton

In 1999, President Clinton pardoned financier Marc Rich, whose wife, Denise, was a huge Clinton fundraiser. Rich was really rich, making a fortune as an international commodities dealer and hedge fund manager. He was indicted on tax-evasion charges. He fled to Switzerland, never to yet return despite the pardon Clinton granted in his last hours in office.

Rich's lawyer was Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who would play a key role in the next section on the power of presidential pardons.

George W. Bush

Bush Jr. pardoned Libby, a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted of perjury and spilling secret info. Libby was ordered to spend 20 months in prison for blowing the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame, a critic of Bush’s dubious decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Somehow, it all seems connected.

Related links:

How Trump Has Alienated The World

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Image Credit: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America - Joe Arpaio, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46709291

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