Pardons Commutations

April 4, 2021


Executive Clemency

President Trump issued a series of clemency decisions to 11 convicted criminals.

What Happened &
Why It Matters


Executive clemency is the “power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the U.S, except in cases of impeachmentgranted to the President in the Constitution. Two main types:

  • Commutation: Conviction stays on record, but sentence is shortened.
  • Pardon: Conviction stays on record, but civil rights lost due to conviction (ex: voting, guns) are restored.


  • The President is the ONLY person able to issue a federal pardon or commutation.
  • The President need not consult with DOJ or provide any explanation.
  • The President may ONLY issue a pardon or commutation to someone convicted of a federal crime.
  • Pardons and commutations of state crimes are generally handled by governors.
“That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence, in my opinion.”

President Trump on commuting, or shortening, the sentence for former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich – a Democrat found guilty on corruption charges, including trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by Pres. Obama – from 14 to 8 years (time served). The commutation of Blagovich’s sentence was one of 11 executive clemency grants the President made on Tuesday (full list on our source page).

“Blagojevich is the face of public corruption in Illinois, and not once has he shown any remorse for his clear and documented record of egregious crimes that undermined the trust placed in him by voters … As our state continues to grapple with political corruption, we shouldn’t let those who breached the public trust off the hook.”

Illinois GOP lawmakers on Pres. Trump's decision to shorten former 'The Celebrity Apprentice' star Blagojevich's sentence


During the first four years of their terms:

  • Pres. Clinton granted a total of 53 pardons & 0 commutations.
  • Pres. G.W. Bush granted a total of 19 pardons & 2 commutations.
  • Pres. Obama granted a total of 22 pardons & 1 commutation.
  • As of Feb. 19, 2020 Pres. Trump granted 25 pardons and 10 commutations.

Tues. morning Pres. Trump held a meeting with former NFL players who had requested a pardon for a former team owner – they received it, and additional clemency decisions followed. One similarity between these and previous clemency decisions? Pres. Trump follows celebrity clemency recommendations.

Trump pardons ex-49ers owner
Trump has pardoned or commuted the sentences of nearly two dozen people since taking office, including several after the urging of celebrities.The president commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving out a life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense, after Kim Kardashian West brought the case to the president’s attention. Trump also posthumously pardoned the late boxing champion Jack Johnson while surrounded by Sylvester Stallone and Lennox Lewis, among others. And he has granted pardons to Joe Arpaio and Matthew Golsteyn after their causes were featured prominently in conservative media.

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by Jenna Lee,