Can A Presidential Pardon Be Reversed Or Not? Everything Explained

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Presidential pardon refers to a special power of presidents that sets aside the sentence due to a federal crime. With a single hit of a pen, he can wipe away the punishments of a federal crime even without asking Congress or battling in the courts.

Generally, the courts or Congress can’t reverse the presidential pardon, but it’s possible from the United Kingdom’s point of view. Even we can see two examples of revoking presidential pardons if we look at the United States.

So here arises a prominent topic, can a presidential pardon be reversed?

If the resident who granted a pardon could be impeached, convicted, and no more protects ‘against political offenses,’ then it can be possible.

So keep an eye on this article to take in-depth knowledge along with some examples of revoking pardons.

Presidential Pardon And Its Limitations

As a president of a country possesses a lot of powers, excusing a person who committed a federal crime is one of them. Moreover, pardoning doesn’t remove or expunge the criminal record of what he did. Especially in case of losing any civil right for the offense or crime, revoking the pardon will restore it.

Impeachment is one of the limitations while pardoning some offenses which don’t give the president to revoke this power of Congress. More specifically, the president can’t use the power of pardon to stop someone from being impeached or undo its effect.

So he only can use this clemency for Federal offenses, not state crimes. Congress passes a document named United States Codes that explains the offenses of the federal crimes. But state governors take care of the state crimes that are explained by state criminal codes.

Of course, the president owns the final power to decide anything regarding a pardon. Those who seek pardon must submit an official application to the Pardon Attorney’s office for further processing.

Can A Presidential Pardon Be Reversed?

The Constitution empowered the president only to issue a pardon for federal offenses. 

Recently Donald Trump declared that a president could pardon himself or his family members, so some issues arise. 

Would an incoming president reverse the pardons granted by the current president?

Though there’re some examples of such reversed pardons, the issue is much complicated than it seems. Because in that cases, pardons weren’t implemented when it was revoked. Even reversing pardon after delivering never happened, which makes this issue more complex.

From the UK perspective

We can see this from different perspectives. If we consider it according to the United Kingdom perspective, it may happen to revoke pardon.

In the United Kingdom, pardoning is a part of the royal privilege. For that reason, no parliament or sovereign can do this either. Only the crown can make or unmake these decisions whatsoever.

The crown can grant honor as well as cancel or annul it whenever it seems unfair.

If they think that the pardon was wrong, the sovereign can withdraw it only if these workouts of the royal privilege are equivalent.

From the US perspective

The United States faced this scenario a couple of times to revoke a presidential pardon. 

In 1869, President Andrew Johnson granted a pardon, but President Ulysses S. revered it before delivering. Even the federal court supported the reversal of the pardon. The judge explained that as the pardon was not complete, there is the power to revoke it. 

The following incident happened in 2008 when President George W. Bush reversed a pardon that he granted to Isaac Toussie. As president, along with his advisors, didn’t notice that elder Mr. Toussie had lately donated a good amount to Republicans, so Mr. Bush withdrew the pardon after about a week.

So also, in this case, the pardon was revoked before it was completed. So procedurally, it never happened that a pardon was reversed when it was issued completely.

Would It Be Possible To Revoke Trumps Pardon?

Though Donald trump granted some unethical pardons at the eleventh hour, even without considering if the Constitution would permit them or not. So a case may be made to evaluate revoking some of these pardons.

You may know that Trump has already undergone impeachment and waiting for a Senate trial for the second time since 13 January.

President Andrew Johnson made an interesting example of restricting a president’s power to grant a pardon. He was the first among the three presidents who were impeached by Congress as well as won the senate acquittal for the first time in 1868.

Then in 1869, Johnson pardoned Jacob and Moses Dupuy, who were convicted of defrauding the international Revenue Department, and Richard C. Enright was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the govt. 

President Ulysses Grant, Successor of Johnson, reversed all those three pardons by calling back the US marshals out delivering the pardons.

So the fact is if the president who granted a pardon is impeached, it can no longer protect the “against political crimes.”

Bill Clinton pardoned the fugitive financier Marc Rich who fled the US under indictment for racketeering, wire fraud, and so on offenses. But Rich had to pay $1,00,000 donation to Hillary Clinton’s 2000 senate campaign along with $4,50,000 to the library to buy the pardon.

Deputy attorney general and former US attorney conducted this pardon, and they explained with some regret that that pardon possibly violated no laws.

Can A President Pardon Himself?

The idea of self-pardon first came from the presidency of Richard Nixon. At that time, self-pardon wasn’t approved by the Department of Justice’s office of legal counsel. The cause behind it was that no one may judge himself even if he does a crime or not. 

Though it was just an opinion, not a law, Nixon received a presidential pardon from his vice-president Herald fold.

But a sitting president can pardon himself according to law. Though any president in history never did it, so this procedure was never verified through the courts. 

How Many Times A President Can Pardon?

Presidential clemency is a very common power of the president that he can apply whenever he wants.

If we look at the United States, Trump granted less pardon than other modern presidents. He granted clemency to 237 individuals since 2017. For the sake of comparison, we see that Barak Obama issued more clemencies to 1927 persons in his 8 years ruling life.

Even Obama pardoned way more people than the older presidents did in the history of the United States. He granted pardon to 330 people on his final day, which broke the records.

Criticism Of Pardons 

President owns a lot of powers, including pardoning any federal offense. He should use it to open all the senses but not abuse it. 

When the debate over this power of pardon, the founders thought about an exception that would stop a president who betrayed from releasing co-conspirators. But at last, the founders were disappointed and thought against adopting this pardoning anymore. 

Even if any president decides to abuse the pardon power, he has to suffer in the long run through election or any other way. Here comes an example of Ford, who suffered due to pardoning Nixon, which cost him the 1976 election.

Apart from them, President Gorge H.W. Bush and Clinton also did outstanding jobs by taking risks while pardoning. Bush ended the Iran-contra investigation in which he was quite caught up while pardoning six of the former Reagan administration officials. 

Clinton granted pardon to his half-brother, but they both had not many difficulties with these issues as the political consequences of that time of their presidency were not much severe.

The past pardons were criticized and investigated whether those were ethical or not, but the legitimacy of a president’s pardon was never questioned. But recently, Trump pardoned Arpaio that’s being debated and has become a burning issue.

Trump’s such action somehow indicating a loophole in the pardon power of the presidents. Moreover, if it seems unethical or arguable, they have nothing to do with this in the current situation or undo the pardon. So it has become a great concern nowadays.

Is Clemency Similar To Pardon?

The term clemency indicates reducing the consequences for a specific offense. It can lessen his punishment time in prison or fine if a person gets clemency. But it will not erase his criminal records and won’t restore his civil rights anymore.

On the other side, a pardon means to forgive a person for a particular crime he did. The cause behind it can be he was treated wrong in court, or the penalty wasn’t right for his crime. 

Final Verdict

Revoking the presidential pardon has become one of the widely discussed matters lately. Can a presidential pardon be reversed by himself or the upcoming president?

Well, it’s a controversial issue. But legally, it’s possible, especially when the president who pardoned could be impeached and convicted. Apart from this, if the pardon becomes incomplete and then it’s reversed, then it’s possible.

So it doesn’t matter if the president himself or the upcoming president is revoking the pardon if it’s legal. If the pardon seems wrong or unethical, reversing it can be an outstanding step any president can take.

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