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What Is Presidential Pardon Power And Are There Limits To Its Use?

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Donald Trump ‘Fears He’ll Be Prosecuted If He Loses Presidential Election’
Douliery Olivier/ABACA/Douliery Olivier/ABACA via Reuters
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US President Donald Trump leaves after speaking during an Opportunity Zone conference with State, local, tribal, and community leaders in the South Court Auditorium April 17, 2019. Donald Trump has privately confided that he fears he will face multiple prosecutions if he loses the presidential election. The President of the United States has told aides he expects the chances of criminal charges against him to dramatically increase if he loses to Joe Biden on November 3. According to The New York Times, Trump is worried about an ongoing probe into his finances by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

U.S. presidents have the power to issue pardons to individuals for certain crimes. When a president prepares to leave office, pardons typically start to pour out of the Oval Office.

President Trump is said to be considering the use this power to preemptively pardon his family members or himself ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Biden. Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal, but no previous presidents have done so for themselves.

How does executive clemency work and are there limits to its use? Who can be pardoned and for what kinds of crimes?

How have previous U.S. presidents used the pardon power? What are the arguments for and against issuing pardons in certain situations?

How can clemency be used as a political tool? Should the process be reformed and if so, how would that happen?

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*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, December 15.