Thursday, January 28, 2016

Clinton's Pardons. Still All Ugly

Josh Gerstein of Politico reports that the Clinton Library has "released the largest set of records ever—more than 43,000 pages—detailing her husband's use of his executive clemency powers while he was president." They are a testament to what the pardon process has become (or what it can be like):
Clinton approved pardons for both [Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory] over the Justice Department's objections. In the House investigation that followed, [longtime Clinton counselor and lawyer Bruce] Lindsey said he supported the pardons, Clinton pardon counsel Meredith Cabe said she didn't find the Gregorys' request particularly compelling and White House Counsel Beth Nolan said she could not remember her stance on the issue, a congressional report says. However, the records released this week show that all three signed a memo to Clinton, urging him to "favorably consider" the pardons.
The papers also show that, during his last-minute pardon bonanza, White House lawyers warned Clinton, "who had endorsed a constitutional amendment to vindicate victims’ rights" that the "customary notifications of victims" were "not being made because the cases had bypassed the usual Justice Department system."

Interestingly, Gerstein found there were "almost three dozen cases where the department endorsed pardons," in 1998, but "Clinton’s own lawyers opposed them."

Gerstein suggests that, seven years into his presidency, Clinton may have had "a change of heart about some of the tough-on-crime policies his administration advocated and enforced." The evidence? A previously unknown note re clemency recommendations, "Good - Send more." A later note said, "Still looks like too many denials of pardons to me.” Clinton, wrote that he might be "interested" in, or be willing to "discuss," a "broad clemency or amnesty for nonviolent drug offenders who had served long prison terms." One plan, developed by "aides" considered "early release of a broad swath of low-level offenders," possibly as many as 500.

This impressive, touching, last-minute care and concern for the long neglected pardon power had almost zero consequence.

Finally, Gerstein noted a Trumanesque concern for "ensuring that pardons and commutations for the politically connected were made public along with similar actions for folks who lacked such ties."
“We recommend that you not act on [the] request [of former Rep. Mel Reynolds (D-Ill.) ] this year. His would be the only commutation announced this holiday season ... We wanted to make you aware that many petitions for commutation request this same remedy, and for the same reason---namely, that the petitioner be allowed to work and earn money to support his or her family....We will be sending you more clemency recommendations next year, so you will have another opportunity to act on his request."
See full article here.

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