The Pardoning President’s Power to Pardon

Op-Ed: Great start, Mr. President. Bring on more mass pardons.

Since the end of World War II, there have been more than a million people, some with felony records, whose records were expunged under a 1967 law known as The Pardonee Act. The law cleared the way for a new era of pardon-driven freedom, but it also set a troubling precedent for America’s criminal-justice system.

Over the past 27 years, Mr. Trump and his administration have expanded the criteria and scope of the law, and at times have pardoned people who should have been convicted felons, like William Henry Wirtz, who helped draft the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Last year alone, Mr. Trump pardoned more than 400 men convicted of crimes ranging from murder to sexual assault and theft. This year, his administration expects to pardon at least 150 who are facing criminal trial in Manhattan — including several who have been accused of threatening the president or other White House officials in an effort to get a pardon.

“There’s a lot of people who should have been convicted felons who have been set free,” President Trump told reporters at a press conference in February. “We should be doing more.”

What’s more, in the past 13 years, the Justice Department has granted fewer pardons of more than 100 people whose criminal records were less than 10 years old. The federal pardoning authority is not subject to the same limitations that limit the president’s power to pardon.

The pardoning president can now pardon individuals with no criminal record for the first time in their life, a far wider set of circumstances than was previously approved by Mr. Trump. The Justice Department, under the Trump administration, made it easier for Mr. Trump to pardon people accused of breaking into a private office at the White House. And by executive order last year, the Justice Department made it easier for Mr. Trump to pardon two white supremacists who had been convicted of federal hate crimes.

Over time, the pardoning power has ballooned, and

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