Presumed Guilty: Obama’s Shocking Record on Pardons

Post Date: October 9, 2013

feature(MSNBC) — The government shutdown has furloughed one of the most pivotal officials in the criminal justice system–the Justice Department’s pardon attorney.  But it turns out he hasn’t been that busy.

In a record that may surprise many political observers, the Obama administration’s pardon attorney, Ronald Rodgers, has teed up the lowest rate of pardons and commutations of any recent administration.

“This president is the most miserly pardoner of any modern president,” says MSNBC.com Managing Editor Dafna Linzer, who led an investigation on the presidential pardon power for theWashington Post and Pro-Publica. 

At the same point in his presidency, Bill Clinton pardoned one in every eight applicants, while George W. Bush pardoned one in every 33.  President Obama’s rate has been one in every 50.

The raw numbers reveal the same disparity.  While Clinton issued 396 pardons and 61 commutations over eight years, Obama has issued 39 pardons–and just one commutation–over five years.

Obama’s reluctance to use this power is confounding. His Justice Department has embraced “smart on crime” policies to reduce prison for non-violent offenders, at least for future defendants. And more broadly, he has sought to affirm core constitutional powers of the presidency, especially when challenged by an aggressive Congress.  Read more