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‘Pardoning’ turkeys is dumb and highlights real pardon problems

A silly-at-best ritual masks a darker present, and possible future, for presidential clemency.

By

The presidential custom of “pardoning” turkeys for Thanksgiving is silly at best and should end. For people who follow clemency, whether for personal or professional reasons or both, the seemingly lighthearted ritual serves to highlight how the person empowered to grant pardons and commutations to humans isn’t doing nearly as much as they could on that front.

But in addition to spotlighting how President Joe Biden can do more with his power, this year’s ceremony brings to mind how Donald Trump could (again) weaponize his own if he’s headed back toward the White House this time next year — namely, when it comes to Jan. 6 defendants.

“I am inclined to pardon many of them,” Trump said in May. ?

Of course, whether Trump is even eligible to take office again is an open question, in light of his own engagement in the insurrection. And if he ultimately can run in 2024 and wins, there’s still the question of whether he’d keep his word to the Jan. 6 participants, whose support he’d no longer need.

Indeed, this time next year, Trump could be more focused on whether to pardon himself.?

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