The President responded that, in the "first year" of his administration, "the Department of Justice recommended -- there was an office that would recommend the pardons." But, the President said that he noticed he was getting recommendations regarding "mostly small-time crimes from very long ago." In his view, these applications "were legitimate, but they didn't address the broader issues that we face, particularly around nonviolent drug offenses."
So, the President said he has now "revamped" the "DOJ office" and it is now "getting much more representative applicants." Finally, the President said, "I think what you'll see is not only me exercising that pardon power and clemency power more aggressively for people who meet the criteria -- nonviolent crimes, have served already a long period of time, have shown that they're rehabilitated -- but also we're working with Democrats and Republicans around criminal justice reform issues."
And that was it. See transcript here.
The trends in applications which the president happened to have "noticed" (supposedly in his first year in office) have, of course, been going on for many years, decades actually. It is so very difficult to believe that he was completely ignorant of this before entering office.
Regardless, his explanation sheds precious little light on why he has granted so few pardons and commutations of sentence in the five long years following his supposed first-year discovery.
Second, we assume the President will, in fact, be more "aggressive" in his "exercising" of the pardon power because, mathematically, it is almost impossible for him to be less aggressive. To date, he is one of the most merciless presidents in the history of the United States.
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