The Trump administration is preparing dozens more clemency cases for President Trump’s review, according to White House sources, the latest sign of Trump’s heightened interest in using his presidential powers to offer relief to convicts.
It is not clear how many cases the president is personally considering for either a presidential pardon or commuting a sentence, but sources say the number is roughly half a dozen.
Trump’s latest exercise of the power came earlier Wednesday when he commuted the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, 63, who has served more than two decades in prison on first-time drug and money laundering offenses.
Johnson’s case had been championed by reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, who met with Trump last week to ask for clemency on Johnson’s behalf.
White House officials say Trump is considering cases involving people he believes have been treated poorly by the criminal justice system.
“This president is now looking at many cases,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “And if he could bring relief to, to folks who he feels have been ‘treated unfairly,’ a term the president uses frequently to describe many different situations, then he will take action.”
Trump has most frequently used his clemency powers on political allies. Last week, he pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who was convicted for making illegal campaign contributions. Trump has also pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney, and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Other pardons have been high-profiles cases, such as his pardon of the late boxer Jack Johnson.
The president said last week he is considering shortening the 14-year prison sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who was convicted for a litany of corruption charges and removed from office. He also said he may pardon lifestyle guru and businesswoman Martha Stewart, who was imprisoned for lying to investigators in an insider trading case.
Both have ties to Trump through his old reality TV show, “The Apprentice.” Stewart’s case was prosecuted by former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by Trump. Comey’s close friend, former U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, prosecuted Blagojevich.
Trump even raised the prospect of a self-pardon earlier this week, a comment that sent shockwaves throughout Washington.
Those moves have prompted fears among critics that Trump could use his pardoning powers to help associates who have been drawn into the special counsel’s probe into Russia’s 2016 election meddling.
Simona Mangiante, the wife of former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, has made multiple appearances on national television asking Trump to pardon her husband. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty last year to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with Russians during the campaign.
“George is loyal to the truth. He has been through a lot. He is loyal to his country. He believed in Trump and I believe in Trump, having access to full information and awareness right now to know he deserves a pardon,” Mangiante said Wednesday on CNN, arguing Papadopoulos had been “set up” by federal investigators.
White House officials have denied that Trump is only considering clemency for the rich and famous, saying he is considering more cases like Alice Marie Johnson’s as well.
“The president looks at each case individually to see if something wrong has been done or whether mercy should be given,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday. “That’s what he’s done and that’s what he’ll continue to do in the future.”
The White House has also faced criticism that Trump has gone outside the traditional pardon process, which is run out of the Justice Department.
The high-profile recipients of Trump’s clemency did not apply for it through the Office of the Pardon Attorney, the Justice Department office that reviews pardon cases and submits recommendations to the president.
Several cases, such as D’Souza’s, did not meet Justice Department requirements for clemency. The Constitution, however, grants Trump wide latitude in granting pardons and commutations.
A White House official said the Office of Pardon Attorney has reviewed many of the thousands of clemency applications it has received since Trump has taken office.
The office recently determined that about 180 cases did not meet “the high standards for clemency,” the official said, adding that more decisions will be made “on a rolling basis.”