10 Controversial Pardons By US Presidents Since 1962

10 Controversial Pardons By US Presidents Since 1962

Since George Washington became the country’s first President, the President’s granting of pardons and clemency has continued, but not without some controversies along the way.

The power to grant a pardon or a reprieve is granted to the president by Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the American Constitution. The pardons only apply to federal offenses and cannot affect an impeachment process.

Many of the pardons over the years have been controversial, with the clemency and pardons sometimes granted to people in positions of power, celebrities, former politicians, or contributors to political parties.

Here are some of the more notable or controversial pardons since the time of John F Kennedy.

Philip Esformes

Philip Esformes is one of the most recent to receive a pardon which could be described as controversial. With his father Rabbi Morris I. Esformes, he owns a large number of rest homes in Illinois and Florida and was found guilty of the largest medical fraud in US history against Medicare and Medic Aid totaling more than $1 billion!

Donald Trump pardoned him along with several other Jewish people on his last day in office. The Biden administration is now trying to retry him on charges that had previously resulted in a hung jury. Many consider that once pardoned, you cannot be tried again for the same offending.

Philip Esfromes was said to have used his illegally gained money to buy a $360,000 Greubel Forsey watch, a $1.6 million Ferrari Aperta automobile, and paid for female escorts, while patients in his care facilities were dying and being mistreated.

First-Time Offenders Convicted Of Crimes Under The Narcotics Control Act Of 1956

By pardoning everyone convicted of any crime under this act, if it was their first offense, John F. Kennedy effectively overturned much of the law passed by congress in that Act.

This is an example of a President ignoring the lawmakers and using his discretion to get around the law.

Jimmy Hoffa

A union activist who was President of the Teamsters Union from 1957 to 1971, he became involved with organized crime and was convicted of jury tampering, attempted bribery, conspiracy, and mail and wire fraud in 1964. In 1967 he was sentenced to 13 years but only served 5 years. 

Ricard Nixon commuted his sentence in return for Hoffa resigning as president of the Teamsters. He went missing in 1975 and was declared dead in 1980. His body has never been found.

President Richard Nixon

His successor, President Gerald Ford granted a full and unconditional pardon in 1974 just before Nixon could be indicted in the Watergate scandal. This was the only time that a U.S. president received a pardon.

This is a prime example of when it is opportune to be on good terms with the President. If you break the law, your “dear friend” can just give you a pardon.

Over 200,000 Vietnam War draft evaders

With this one pardon, Jimmy Carter became the President who pardoned the most individuals.

In the early years of the Vietnam War, draft evaders were not particularly popular, and boxer Muhammad Ali was among those jailed for refusing to fight in Vietnam which destroyed most of his goodwill with the American public.

History however probably looks upon this pardon as one of the more deserved.

Mark Felt and Edward S. Miller 

These two FBI officials were convicted in 1980 for authorizing illegal break-ins and fined. 

Ronald Regan pardoned them both in 1981. Mark Felt later admitted to being Deep Throat, the informant during the Watergate affair.

Armand Hammer 

CEO of the Occidental Petroleum Company, he illegally contributed $54,000 to Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign in 1972.

George Bush pardoned him shortly after the contributed $110,000 to the Republican National Committee.

Nixon and Bush were both Republicans. It seems money can buy you almost anything.

Patty Hearst 

Convicted of bank robbery in 1976 after being kidnapped and allegedly brainwashed. Jimmy Carter commuted her prison term, and she was released from prison in 1979, then Bill Clinton fully pardoned her in 2001.

There’s still a lot of doubt over the supposed brainwashing and how complicit she was in the bank robbery.

Roger Clinton, Jr. 

Pardoned by his half-brother, Bill Clinton, after serving a year in federal prison for cocaine possession.

If you’re related to the President, can you do any wrong?

Chelsea Manning 

U.S. Army whistle-blower convicted by court-martial in 2013 and sentenced to 35 years for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks. 

Barach Obama commuted her sentence in 2017.

Looking through this list of pardons, some seem justified, but many seemed to be the result of money changing hands or the right kind of relationships with the right kind of people at the right time.