Most-Surprising Presidential Pardons in US History

Impeachment rally for Trump back in 2017

Presidential pardons are one and many in the history of the US. There are many times when US Presidents granted reprieves for their citizen’s misdeeds. The US President may grant a pardon for any individual, including himself, for any crimes done against the country and its citizens. This issue of Presidential pardons has been trending for a while now because of what has happened to former President Trump. A few weeks before leaving office, he has been under intense scandal for serious crimes against the people.

Here are some of the craziest and most-surprising presidential pardons in US history:

1832: A Man Who Refused Pardon

A man was caught and convicted for robbing and threatening the life of a U.S. postal worker in 1830. This man, Goerge Wilson, and his accomplice received death sentences for their crimes. He was granted a pardon by President Jackson. But, he outrightly refused it. The ending? George Wilson was hanged to death for his crimes.

1869: For the Assassination of the President

Three conspirators to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln were pardoned by President Andrew Johnson. Seven people were found guilty to have been involved in the assassination of the former president. However, only four of them (Mary Surratt, George Atzerodt, David Herold, and Lewis Powell) were sentenced to death. Three of them (Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold, and Edmund Spangler) received prison sentences and were later pardoned by President Johnson.

1974: A Disgraced President

Former President Nixon resigned from his presidency after the infamous Watergate Scandal of 1974. Just a month later, newly installed president General Ford granted Nixon a “full and unconditional pardon for ANY crimes he may have committed to the US”.

Many Americans questioned the legality of Nixon’s pardon. A lot of people were also wondering if it was necessary for Ford to pardon Nixon. Many people believe that it was Ford’s pre-emptive action to aid Nixon. The former president was never charged with any crime in connection to the Watergate Scandal.

2001: The Presidential Brother

Roger Clinton Jr. is the brother of former president Bill Clinton is among those people who received clemency from the president. He served time in prison after he was convicted of cocaine possession and drug-trafficking back in 1985.

Former President Bill Clinton has received much backlash for many of his controversial awards of pardon. This is especially controversial when he made a third (or about 150 cases) of his total pardons on his very last day of office.

2017: Saving a US Army Private

An army whistleblower, Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning), was sentenced to 35 years in prison between 2010 and 2017 after she leaked important military intelligence records on WikiLeaks. Among the information that she leaked were videos from airstrikes in Baghdad and Granai, along with multiple war logs and reports. Manning was actually not pardoned, instead, her sentence was merely reduced. In 2017, President Obama commuted all but four months of her remaining sentence. He has indicated that 35 years is too long in comparison to sentences received by other “leakers”.

President Obama has been known to commute sentences and pardon people with special cases. This means that these people have spent too much time in jail but were unfairly convicted of their crimes.

2021: Is self-Pardoning non-constitutional?

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

There had been issues that former President Trump could save himself from his offenses and even re-run again for the presidency in the future. Prior to his second impeachment, people were wary that Trump might grant himself a pardon. This has never been tested in the courts, not because it’s not allowed, but because no President has ever done it before. Although presidents may pardon themselves for misdeeds, they may not do it for ANYONE who has been impeached from ANY position. This means Trump cannot pardon himself, it will become unconstitutional.

Also read: Americans Turn the Minimum Wage Hike into Funny Memes


Civil Engineer by profession, Writer by passion. Serving readers since 2014 on different niches like Science, Current Events, Tech, and Travel.


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