How do other presidents compare as Donald Trump prepares 100 pardons?

Donald Trump is using his power while he can. Credit: AP

Donald Trump will raise eyebrows when, as expected, he announces pardons and commutations for around 100 people on his final day as the US President. 

It is fair to say that Trump has had a controversial single term in office but his last actions are relatively standard, following in a long history of presidents - even the more liberals ones - of using their powers to quash convictions.

Trump has already pardoned or rescinded the convictions of 94 people, mainly known associates of the sitting president, creating controversy in the process. 

It is anticipated that more allies will be pardoned on Tuesday, in addition to high-profile rappers, after numerous requests for clemency were made to Trump in his final days.

It is being speculated that Trump could pardon his own children, his lawyer and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon, an ex-White House strategist, as part of one of his final acts.

What is a Presidential Pardon?

A pardon can be granted at any time following the commission of a crime, and is a sign of clemency. They do not make a person immune from conviction for future crimes.

Normally, pardons are seen as a sign of the President showing forgiveness to someone who feels remorse for their actions.

A pardon, however, does not mean the person is seen as innocent in the eyes of the law.

They can only be given for federal crimes, so can not be applied to state, local or civil offences.

A President can self-pardon themselves but not in a case of impeachment, although this concept is yet to be tested in court.

How many pardons have other presidents offered? 

Barack Obama pardoned or commuted the sentences of 330 people in his final days in office, which was a record for a president. Trump’s predecessor mainly commuted a sentences for those serving time for low-level drug offences.

George W Bush was far less liberal with pardoning, despite receiving many requests for action. He commuted the sentences of two Border Patrol guards who wounded a drug smuggler and tried to cover the matter up.

Bush later wrote in his memoirs: "I came to see massive injustice in the system. If you had connections to the president, you could insert your case into the last-minute frenzy. Otherwise, you had to wait for the Justice Department to conduct a review and make recommendation. In my final weeks in office, I resolved that I would not pardon anyone who went outside the formal channels."

Bill Clinton notched up 140 pardons or commutations, causing dissension by offering them to political donors and his half brother Roger, who served had a year in prison for cocaine possession.

Bill Clinton (right) with his half-brother, Roger (left) Credit: PA

George Bush Snr. offered a total of 12 pardons on his penultimate day. Throughout his entire presidency, Bush carried out only 78 pardons or commutations.

Ronald Reagan handed out 32 pardons as his presidency wound down, including New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had made illegal contributions to the Richard Nixon presidential campaign and obstructed justice. 

Jimmy Carter granted 71 pardons in 1981, out of a total of 534 in his time as president. 

Gerald Ford gave out 382 pardons in his two years in office, which is quite a feat.

Richard Nixon resigned before he was impeached over the Watergate affair in 1974. Overall, he handed out 863 pardons, and he also became the first US President to receive one himself when his successor, Ford, granted him one over his involvement in Watergate. 

Lyndon B. Johnson was quite happy to hand out pardons in his early days - granting 960 - but provided none in his final days.

Lyndon B. Johnson. Credit: AP

John F. Kennedy commissioned 472 pardons during his tenure but was assassinated mid-term in 1964.

Dwight D. Eisenhower became the first President to grant pardons in batches, which explains how he permitted 1,110 overall, including 202 in his final days in office.

Harry S. Truman carried out 1,913 pardons during his presidency, with 91 of those being part of his final acts as the nation’s leader.

Only two presidents - James Garfield and William Henry Harrison - have never handed out a pardon since their introduction in 1885.