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The Presidential Pardon Explained

By: Haig Simitian

· Domestic Policy

A Presidential or Federal Pardon is an action taken by the President of the United States where the President may choose to absolve an individual of a federal crime. This power of the President is outlined in Article 2, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution.

The power is limited in its power, however, as the Presidential Pardon can only be used when there are “offenses against the United States.” This means that a violation of state law cannot be pardoned. In addition to the exclusion of infringements on state law, the President cannot pardon themselves. The pardon can also be used for a presumptive case, such as when President Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon over any possible crimes regarding the Watergate scandal.
Approximately 20,000 pardons or clemencies have been granted by the executive branch in the 20th century alone, and until 1889, they all had to be hand-written by the President! During the Reagan Administration in 1981, the Office of the Pardon Attorney was created, causing all Presidential pardons to be created and reviewed by the President’s senior staff, and signed by the president.
The President also “pardons” a turkey on Thanksgiving. You probably already knew that, but if you didn’t, now you do.

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