The Atlantic

The Flynn Pardon Is a Despicable Use of an Awesome Power

The president’s abuse of his clemency power is an assault on one of the few truly humane aspects of the American legal system.
Source: Getty / Katie Martin / The Atlantic

President Donald Trump’s announcement that he has pardoned Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser who twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, is infuriating—and not merely because of the gross favoritism on display. What Trump has done once again is corrupt something that ought to be beyond corruption: the mercy that the most powerful person in the world can bestow upon those who are in chains.

I know the beauty of this power. I’ve seen it at work myself.

On a bright August day in 2016, I received a call from a number at the Department of Justice. The official on the other end told me that three of my law-school clinic’s clients had been that would free them from life sentences on cocaine offenses, after each had served 25 years or more in prison. I was to call each of them immediately, and tell them the news.

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