Can, and Should, Obama Pardon Hillary Clinton?
Could Follow Recent Precedent, But At Much Less Risk – Expert
WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 9, 2016) – Now that Donald Trump has been elected president, pressure is likely to mount on President Barack Obama to issue a full and unconditional pardon to Hillary Clinton to protect her from what many believe is Trump’s perhaps politically motivated and arguably unfair pre-judgment of her criminal guilt, and a major promise of his campaign to have a special prosecutor investigate her, or even to have her put in jail.
It is something Obama can do for which there is a clear historical precedent, and which he could do with far less political blow back than his predecessor, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who was involved in the earlier situation. Any such pardon would clearly be constitutional, argues Banzhaf.
The American Bar Association [ABA] recently reported that consideration had already been given to a pardon for Clinton even before the election, but the need for such a pardon perhaps did not seem very compelling in view of widespread predictions that Trump would be defeated.
There is clear precedent for a president to grant a “full, free, and absolute pardon” “for all offenses against the United States” without naming the offenses; that’s what Gerald Ford did in 1974 for Richard Nixon in order to prevent, as Ford called it, further “prolonged and divisive debate.”
However, his action was seen as controversial and divisive, and may have used up valuable political capital and weakened his presidency. But, if Obama does the same for Clinton before he leaves office, it would not impede or undermine what he had already accomplished.
Now that Trump has in fact been elected, the pressure to issue such a pardon is far stronger.
Trump, in prejudging her situation, repeatedly opined that Clinton had committed serious crimes and should be behind bars. Many other responsible voices have concluded that there is already more than enough evidence to indict her for several serious crimes, and even more for a more thorough investigation.
Indeed, at the second presidential debate, Trump pledged that, were he to become president, he would “instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your (missing email) situation.” When Clinton briefly responded, Trump shot back: “Because you’d be in jail.”
Since Trump is unlikely to change his mind, break the pledge he made to a vast television audience, and a chant about putting her in jail which has been a centerpiece of his campaign, the person chosen as his new attorney general is likely to share his strong feelings about Clinton’s guilt.
Thus Obama may feel that a complete pardon for Clinton is clearly necessary to avoid an oppressive and unfair prosecution of the former Secretary of State, and/or to avoid a major impediment to the country’s healing which so many believe is now clearly necessary.