The Virtually Untrammeled Power of Presidential Pardons

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When it comes to high-profile presidential pardons, the big one, of course, was President Gerald R. Ford’s pardon of Richard M. Nixon.

Ford issued the pardon on Sept. 8, 1974, pre-empting the possibility of a trial for Nixon, who had resigned on Aug. 9 because of the Watergate scandal without being charged with any crimes.

Explaining his decision, Ford described the Nixon family’s situation as “an American tragedy in which we all have played a part.”

“It could go on and on and on, or someone must write the end to it,” he said. “I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.”...

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