President Bush’s Pardoning Predicament

Good news for anyone concerned about President George W. Bush issuing blanket pardons to those who committed war crimes under his orders — although the president can’t issue pardons for crimes that he authorized and war crimes have no statute of limitations — it turns out that Presidential pardons can be revoked. President Bush said himself that the president can revoke pardons, which means that any pardon issued by Bush can be overturned by President-elect Obama.

President Bush issued a pardon to Mr. Isaac Robert Toussie, a Brooklyn Developer involved in a Long Island real estate fraud case. He reportedly reversed the pardon when “new information” came to light. It was revealed that the father of the subject granted the pardon donated $28,500 to the Republican National Committee last april and $2,300 to Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign.

Bush’s politicized Justice Department maintained that Toussie had no grounds to argue that the president could not take back a pardon because “a pardon isn’t official until the warrant is received by the person who requested it, and that hadn’t happened yet.” The White House claimed that Bush could reverse the pardon because Toussie was not formally, or “officially” notified of his pardon.

According to Associate Professor of Political Science and Author P.S. Ruckman Jr., that isn’t the case at all. An article by Mr. Ruckman at explains what happens when the president issues a pardon:

1) The President signed a formal pardon warrant, containing Toussie’s name, which expressly states that he was “hereby granted a full and unconditional pardon.”

2) That document was sealed and transmitted to Department of Justice (DOJ) with directions to notify the grantees.

3) The Office of the Pardon Attorney (OPA) called each grantee (or his counsel) via telephone and told him that he’d been pardoned by the President.

4) Then, the DOJ issued a press release that informed the world (including Toussie) that the grants had been made.

5) There is no issue about whether Toussie accepted the pardon – he had asked for it and it was granted without conditions.

Mr. Ruckman also notes that the OPA will always tell the grantee that they “have been” pardoned when they make those phone calls, not that they “will be” pardoned “as soon as they get the individual warrant.”

President Bush’s Pardoning Predicament

As noted by David Swanson in his letter to President-elect Obama:

…Much of the discussion of this history of revoking pardons deals with the question of whether a pardon can still be revoked after actually reaching the hands of the pardonee, or after various other obscure lines are crossed in the process of issuing and enforcing of the pardon. If President Bush issues blanket pardons to dozens of criminals in his administration for crimes that he himself authorized, he will probably — with the exception of Libby — not even name them, much less initiate any processes through which they are each formally notified of the pardons. He will be pardoning people of crimes they have not yet been charged with, so the question of timing is something you are unlikely to have to worry about (except perhaps with Libby).

Virtually none of the discussion of these matters ever addresses the appropriateness or legitimacy of the pardons involved or of the revoking of them. The history would appear to establish that you will have the power to revoke Bush’s pardons. I want to stress that you will also have a moral responsibility to do so and a legal requirement to do so. Morally and legally, you have no choice in this matter. When you take the oath of office, you will be promising to faithfully execute the laws of the land. Through Article VI of our Constitution, the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment are the supreme laws of this land. Those laws bind you to prosecute violations, including torture and other war crimes of which Bush, Cheney, and their subordinates are guilty and which Bush is likely to try to pardon.

Bush’s pardons will not be like other past pardons. Even when his father pardoned the Iran-Contra criminals, he was pardoning crimes for which President Reagan, not he himself, held ultimate responsibility. Here we are facing the unprecedented outrage of a president pardoning crimes that he openly admits having authorized. The closest thing to this in U.S. history thus far has been Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence, to which he is expected to add a pardon. Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice in an investigation that was headed to the president. Evidence introduced in the trial, including a hand-written note by the vice president, implicated Bush, and former Press Secretary Scott McClellan has since testified that Bush authorized the exposure of an undercover agent, that being the crime that was under investigation…

The rest of Mr. Swanson’s letter to President-elect Obama can be found at Media With Conscience News. It’s worth reading.

The Raw Story reported on another pardon granted by Bush that needs to be revoked because of political donations made to Bush’s presidential campaign. More on Bush’s pardoning predicament can be found from The Daily Kos, TIME, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Talking Points Memo.

Previously granted pardons have been revoked before. If Bush issued blanket pardons for the crimes he authorized, not only would it be illegal and immoral, it would amount to nothing more than a major admission of his guilt. The only way we’ll ever see justice is when Joe the public demands it. The people responsible for the past eight years need to be held accountable for their actions.

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