Since the nineteenth century, presidents have largely relied on recommendations from the Office of the Pardon Attorney when granting pardons and commutations. The current process for making clemency recommendations usually takes more than a year. It is governed by Justice Department regulations that outline the factors for consideration of petitions and set forth multiple stages of review. While reliance on pardon attorney recommendations has long been the norm, presidents are not required to use this process. Presidents before Donald Trump had circumvented the pardon attorney. However, no prior president had made the evasion of this process the norm. This article details what appears to be the pardon attorney’s rare involvement in President Trump’s clemency grants.

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