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The History Of Presidential Pardons And Commutations

Suzy Brooks
U.S. Presidents have had the right to pardon federal crimes and grant commutations since the beginning of the republic.

Article 2, section 2, clause 1 of the United States Constitution grants presidents the right to pardon those convicted of federal crimes. Since George Washington, presidents have been granting pardons and commutations. Even though the checks and balances written into the constitution for all three branches of government shape power dynamics, this article grants unilateral power to the president.

Historian Tim Walch and political scientist Rachel Paine Caufield join River to River host Ben Kieffer to talk about some of the most memorable pardons and commutations throughout history.

This program originally aired on February 27, 2020.


Tim Walch, director emeritus Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

Rachel Paine Caufield, professor of political science at Drake University

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Rick Brewer was a producer for IPR's Talk of Iowa and River to River