Can President Obama Pardon Hillary Clinton? Will He?

Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, and former President Bill Clinton wave to the crowd after a rally on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 07, 2016. About 40,000 people flooded Independence Mall in Philadelphia. (Getty)

Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama, and former President Bill Clinton wave to the crowd after a rally on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 07, 2016. (Getty)

Now that Hillary Clinton has lost to President-Elect Trump, people are wondering: Can President Barack Obama pardon Clinton before he leaves office?

Will he?

Those are two different questions, of course. They have increased currency because, in one of the presidential debates, Donald Trump told Clinton that, if he was president, she would be in jail, and some of his supporters shouted “lock her up” after he won the presidency, although Trump himself avoided such rhetoric in his victory speech. He will likely choose an aggressive GOP prosecutor as Attorney General. Think Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie (if Bridgegate doesn’t rule him out), or Trey Gowdy, Clinton’s Congressional Benghazi inquisitor.

Although FBI Director James Comey said, right before the election, that he didn’t find anything in Clinton’s emails to warrant charges, a new FBI director might feel differently, especially one pushed by an aggressive Justice Department. Furthermore, there were conflicting reports before the election about whether or not the FBI was investigating the Clinton Foundation for pay to play. That also raises the prospect that Obama could pardon Bill Clinton too.

There would be precedent. Gerald Ford pardoned former President Richard Nixon, an act that was painted as necessary so the country could move on and heal. Obama could cast a Clinton pardon in the same light, and justify it as necessary by saying Trump has prejudged her case for political purposes. Watch Ford’s explanation for pardoning Nixon here:

Others have cited Bill Clinton’s granting of clemency to CIA director John Deutch, who was accused of mishandling classified information, said The Charlotte Observer, which added that no charge had been filed at the time Clinton acted.

Here’s what you need to know:

Can President Obama Pardon Hillary Clinton?

Yes. This question came up even before Hillary lost. Some were arguing Obama should consider pardoning Clinton even if she won to prevent Republicans from tying up her administration with FBI investigations and other inquiries.

The president enjoys broad executive authority on pardons. It’s his call. If President Obama wants to pardon Clinton, he can do it, even if she doesn’t request the pardon.

According to Politico, Obama could pardon Clinton “for any federal offenses she may have committed or could ever be prosecuted for.”

One expert, attorney Samuel T. Morison, told The Charlotte Observer, “The only constraint is that he can’t pardon someone in advance of committing the offense.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked if Obama was considering pardoning Clinton, and he dodged the question (see above video). He said:

“Well, as you know, the President has offered clemency to a substantial number of Americans who were previously serving time in federal prisons, and we didn’t talk in advance about the President’s plans to offer clemency to any of those individuals.” Earnest was referring to Obama’s drug sentence pardons and commutations, in part. He said the White House doesn’t talk about the President’s thinking on pardons or commutations.

During one of the presidential debates, Trump told Clinton: “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation…” He added, “because you’d be in jail” when Hillary countered that she was glad someone like him wasn’t in charge of the laws in the United States. This Trump comment was criticized for, among other things, violating due process. Watch:

You can search a database of Obama’s pardons here.

Will President Obama Pardon Hillary Clinton?

Obama can do it, but there would be political calculations for both sides. To the Clintons, accepting a pardon would tarnish their reputations by implying guilt to some, said Politico. Remember that neither Clinton has ever been formally accused of a crime.

President Obama would face a firestorm of criticism from some were he to grant such a pardon, solidifying voter anger over a so-called elite system “rigged” for insiders. The Democratic Party is looking toward the future and courting some of those voters back, not creating new controversies.

A pardon would also dominate discussions of Obama’s legacy, which he would probably prefer to revolve around other things. Finally, there’s been no love lost between the Clintons and Obamas at times (remember the bitter Democratic primary), although the President and First Lady did hit the campaign trail for Hillary.

Furthermore, Trump seems to have hedged some of the throw her in jail rhetoric since winning, and he might just move on to focus on other things. There’s also the question of whether Obama would want to pardon someone for whom there could be legitimate wrongdoing (that is far from clear, of course).

Indeed, Obama’s press secretary drew the media’s attention to the observation Obama made in the Rose Garden about the “tone” that Trump displayed in his remarks in his victory speech on Tuesday night, saying, “The President expressed hope that that kind of tone would continue. That’s relevant because we have a long tradition in this country of people in power not using the criminal justice system to extract political revenge.”

That seems to imply that Obama will consider a pardon if Trump jacks the rhetoric back up about prosecuting Clinton and putting her in jail, but that he thinks he might not be necessary if Trump’s tone remains conciliatory.

What’s the Precedent?

Ford’s pardon of Nixon is brought up a lot in this context. According to The New York Post, Ford’s 1974 pardon of Nixon was “for any crimes Nixon might have committed against the U.S. while he was president.”

Ford felt that “a long, drawn-out trial” of the former president would have been harmful to the nation, said The Post. Nixon had not been formally charged with any crime when Ford pardoned him, and the pardon was criticized at the time.

Ford said Nixon was 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. I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.”

As for John Deutch, the CIA director granted clemency by Bill Clinton, The Daily Caller says he was accused of “improperly keeping classified information on personal laptop computers.” Clinton pardoned him in 2001 just as he was about to work out a plea deal, said The Daily Caller.

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  1. I think Obama will pardon the Clintons before leaving office. Mainly because he’s terrified about being exposed as part of the Clinton scandal.

    • President Obama giving Clinton a pardon ?

      For what ?

      The FBI claims that Hillary Clinton hasn’t done anything wrong !!

      Is this a suggestion ?

      That President Obama claims that Hillary Clinton is a criminal and needs a pardon ?

      You have to be convicted of a crime first to get a pardon no crime no pardon.

      What’s he going to Pardon her for ?

      Well !!

      He can pardon her for ,spending as much money in a presidential campaign, that could have paid social security for one year

      He can pardon her for taking 20% of her campaign money from a leader of countrie that have ties with radical Islamic terrorism .

      He can pardon her for lying to the American people, about the attack in Benghazi knowing all along it was a gun front arms deal and that they deliberately let those great Americans died to cover up their illegal activity.

      He could pardon for illegally going into the bank account of her supporters and keeping it under a hundred bucks to avoid fraud charges and skimming 2.2 million dollars at less than $100 at a time.

      She has to be convicted of a crime to be pardoned.

      • In 1866, the Supreme Court ruled in Ex parte Garland that the pardon power “extends to every offence known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken, or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment.”

        So, essentially, yes … he can pardon her without any prior conviction.

          • Question : The involvement of the black live matters shootings in Dallas against police officers, along with the reported paid protesters of the same organization requested by the DNC to create civil unrest for $1500 dollars and a cell phone . Would this indirect/ Direct involvement be considered, as bearing arms against the United States! and therefore the 1866 ruling by the Supreme Court would not apply ?

      • See my point is.. If he just auto signs a pardon for her how can it be a blanked’d pardon.. 1. he has to know she commited a crime, personal knowledge that she is guilty of that crime, and he pardons her. So, we the people might not have options, but seriously, the questions to follow the Prez are not good, and it says to the world.. Hey Prez Obama tried to get the US to vote for a Criminal for President. And then before he left office he Pardoned her for said Crimes.. And the tough Fish looks like its going to be Trey Gowdy.. bulldog elite..

      • If you had actually READ the article…you would be aware that YES he can pardon her for crimes she has not been charge with. Obama could pardon Clinton “for any federal offenses she may have committed or could ever be prosecuted for”!!! Your answer is null and void like the vote you cast on Tuesday.

        • Are you really that ill informed dummy? No one has ever been given a pardon that didn’t at least have suspicion that they committed a crime. They also have to request a pardon through the proper channels. Hillary Clinton would NEVER accept a pardon from Obama because by doing so she would be admitting she was guilty of something, which she has denied from the start of her scandals. Obama is NOT going to issue a blanket, unrequested pardon for her and her clearly dubious if not illegal deeds because that would just add more tarnish to his legacy that he can ill afford right now. And lastly, don’t even begin to think Obama gives one hoot about Hillary Clinton. All his running around trying to fire up democratic voters was smoke and mirrors trying to shore up his shaky legacy, and he went to bat for the Party and not Hillary. Get real you dolt.


      • Not true Michael, you do not have to be convicted or even charged with a crime to be pardon. It s called a pre emotive pardon. Look it up, the most notable pre emotive pardon was granted to President Nixon. I’m old enough to remember that one.

      • For what? For lying under oath to Congress dummy. Did you watch the hearings or are you just towing the party line that this is a witch hunt by those mean old republicans?

        • And others pointed out, it would be preemptive because without those lying through their teeth to protect her in power anymore, the FBI and DOJ might actually be allowed to do their jobs.

      • Did you read above??… Nixon was pardoned with no charges… for crimes that MAY have been committed while president. There doesn’t have to be a crime…However…Apardon would imply Guilt

  2. I see a problem that if the Clinton’s and others aren’t brought to justice for the crimes, that it will give credence to the claim that all these charges were leveled only for political purposes as part of the Republicans smear tactics. They need to show that know one is above the law, including inside politicians, and that these charges of corruption ,collusion or Treason have sever penalties regardless of political party or other affiliation.

  3. Pardoning Clinton would benefit Trump, as well. If Trump does manage to jail Clinton, he’ll earn disrespect worldwide for acting like a banana republic dictator. And, if he tries and fails to put Clinton in jail, he’ll be strongly criticized by both his supporters and opponents. An Obama pardon would get Trump out of this messy no-win situation.

    • Trump would not be putting her in prison. If she was investigated by a special prosecutor, found guilty and locked up, it would be the DOJ not Trump locking her up.

      • stupid is stupid writes – DOJ is under President – you stupid. And DOJ cannot lockup anyone – the Court can and needs proofs to do it. Stupid does not know that there is no proofs even after FBI told stupid several times. Anonymous you are really stupid.

  4. Article II Section 2: Presidential Powers: he shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment. however she is innocent until proven guilty which means she would have to be prosecuted for offenses against America and found guilty of breaking the law BEFORE Obama leaves office January 20 2017

    • interesting enough should Obama Pardon her. Trump could still have them proceed with Impeachment of her as Secretary of State. Which would basically kill any chance of her ever holding government office again if she is found guilty of those crimes against the US with regards to her service as SoS. Frankly even if Obama pardons her if I were the GOP I would still try for that impeachment because for one if it succeeds they could basically prove that the scandals were not merely Politically motivated which is what the DNC will allege.

  5. The sooner the entire Clinton family and their salacious, sordid, scandal-plagued legacy is relegated to the dustbin of history, the better off this country will be. We need to look to the future and rebuild what Obama has torn down over the last 8 years. Deal with Hillary with swift and merciful justice, then LETS MOVE ON and Make America Great Again! TRUMP 2016 and beyond! I’m looking forward, are you?

  6. I believe that most Americans probably hold the opinion that Obama is equally guilty and complicit with Clinton with regards to the email/server scandal. However, it is too thorny an issue for anyone to address at this time. Our country is seriously hurting, with both a stalled economy, crushing debt, and external barbarians knocking at the gate ( China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, ISIS….) Americans need to freeking wake up, drop the partisan fights, and work together to rebuild our Union. We have an existential crisis at our doorstep, and we need to recognize the symptoms and take the antidote before it is too late.

  7. Couldn’t pardoning for any future untold federal crimes be considered a “licence to kill”? What stops the Clintons from continuing to line their pockets with foundation money? What stops future influential politicians from copy-catting this “pay-for-play” scheme?

  8. Will President Obama pardon Hillary Clinton for the crimes she has committed?

    As I understand it; a President can only pardon a person if they have been convicted of a crime or if they have confessed to committing a crime.

    Since Hillary Clinton has not yet been convicted of any crimes, and continues to state she never broke any laws, President Obama would not able to pardon her, thanks to Comey’s recent actions. I am sure Comey knows that with the information the FBI has on Hillary Clinton he could recommend she be indicted for her crimes. If he did and she was found guilty then Obama could pardon her.

    FBI director Comey knows the laws and maybe he purposely did not continue with the investigation, in order to prevent Obama from pardoning Hillary. When Obama officially leaves office the FBI will most likely re-open their investigation into both Bill and Hillary’s activities with the Clinton Foundation and Hillary’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State in order to use a pay for play operation to get money into their private foundation.

  9. Trump is going to wait until Pres. Obama has left the White House. Jason Chavetz, Trey Gowdy, Judicial Watch or Rudy Guiliani are going to pursue prosecution of Hillary because they are going to continue to ‘investigate her.’ Trump will appear toned-down for a few weeks or months during which time they are all out in pursuit of ‘jailing her.’ You cannot do this to her now or in the future. Pres. Obama must pardon her even though no crime has been committed (before he leaves office.} There is no scandal here of the Clintons. Just hatred by Trump and the right-wing for over 30 years. Absolute shame on Trump and Jason and Trey and Guiliani for abuse of power.

    • There were multiple crimes here. There would be nobody encouraging Obama to give a blanket pardon if there weren’t.

      There may or may not have been criminal acts with here email idiocy.. but there was in the cover up. But the real problem is the pay-to-play scheme she ran when she was secretary of state. All it will take is one of the people she forced to pay bribes to meet with the state department to talk.. and she’s in trouble.

    • We now have a nationalist GOP party with Trump. This is what happened in 1930’s Germany and America was in denial of this until it was too late. There is no amount of normalizing pathology and sociopathy you can do with Trump to convince me otherwise. The hatred of the Clinton’s has been led by the conservatives, far right, the national media and journalists for over 30 years. Hillary has never been committed of a crime. These guys now have full power and permission by James Comey and the republicans to go all out to jail her. Trump’s personal inner rage and hatred in the form of political ‘acting-out’ transference onto Hillary and the American people is just getting started. God help us all. President Trump must speak to us about the abuse of political power and step in to protect Hillary and us. Sadly, over the next three months. the media will ‘normalize’ his behaviors to make the transition to the WH. The media’s only job in America is to tell the truth and to protect democracy. They have failed to do this during this election cycle. Instead, they marketed Donald Trump 24-7,

      • If you want the truth, read David Brock’s Blinded by the Right and Killing the Messenger. He has exposed the right wing media the conservatives, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, and CBS journalists for what they are. There is no pay to play scheme and Hillary did not commit criminal intent.

      • You believe the media marketed Trump? What the media is is and extension of the Democratic Party. They have covered for Hillary for years and they have done the same for Bill. They are both life long criminals. Hillary’s crimes go all the way back to Watergate. The body count surrounding the Clintons has grown to almost 50 and the media remains silent on it. So no matter what Trump is or is not he cannot be as evil as the Clintons. They are the family from hell. You must be brainwashed.

    • So you still have your head buried in the sand. Come on you and half the country still voted for her even though she is a criminal. Your still blaming it on Trump and he was just telling the truth.

    • Yes, this is what I think would be best for Trump, too. But, only Clinton will take the heat – she is already unliked by both Reps and Dems, while Obama still has a Reagan-class teflon shield.

  10. under the rico act anyone involved in a crime can be charged as well. obama can not pardon himself and he is complicit in know classified e-mails were sent to clinton on an unsecure server. if he pardons her then he would have to pardon half of the government, but he cant pardon himself. hard choice isnt it.

    • As I understand it Obama CAN pardon himself as well as any others convicted or at least charged of a crime before he leaves office. I can’t really see him taking time from what was supposed to be his victory lap around the world to promote his legacy and celebrate hillarys win. Unfortunately she lost, so his victory tour just turned into a promotional of himself letting the world know how great he is and what greatness he preformed in our country in just 8 short years.

  11. Rudy Giuliani was a good Mayor and a good US Attorney of New York. How do you think someone such as he, a well respected icon in law enforcement, can lay out multiple criminal offenses that Hillary has already committed (but not charged with). I do not think he would tarnish his reputation by making false accusations as such. The bottom line is that the Clinton Foundation is currently under FBI investigation. I think that is where the newly appointed Attorney General will target. Will Obama pardon Hillary? I highly doubt he will. It would solidify the already questioned “political cesspool” in Washington, and it would give the DNC a black eye for years to come. I think it would be best if all stood back and let the DOJ and FBI do their job without any political bias from the left or right.

    • I think Trump will make a deal to pardon Hillary, Bill and Obama, in exchange for Obama pardoning Donald (for whatever misdeeds he has in those 75 or so pending lawsuits, and possible other legal nonsense from his past as yet uncovered) and Melania (for her visa nonsense). Then everyone in the power elite, Reps and Dems, can live happily ever after….

  12. Most of these comments just make me sad, repeating campaign rhetoric that was never true, and now no longer even serves any purposes. Just wanted to point out one thing in article that is just factually false. It says, “neither Clinton has ever been formally accused of a crime.” In fact, Bill Clinton was charged by the House of Representatives on two articles of impeachment, which are by definition deemed to be “high crimes and misdemeanors.” He was acquitted by the Senate, so it would be more accurate to say that Hillary Clinton has never been charged or that neither has ever been convicted of a crime.

  13. The author needs to go back and proofread and research the subject.
    Just one quick point
    James Comey has 7 more years in office.
    3 more than Trump.
    Your highly biased, entertainment piece belongs in a litter box.

  14. Obama needs to give the Clintons a blanket pardon the Clintons, just to keep Trump from being a HUGH pain in the ass, and wasting time and tax payer dollars, but thats ok it not his money. HAHAHA.. We all know TRUMP does not get his way, he will do what ever he can to make him right or at least make his target look worst. I feel sorry for the plaintiffs of TRUMP UNIVERSITY and the citizens that wanted justice for someone misusing charity funds for personal gain.

  15. Someone please help our failing memory. Did President Ford PARDON his Richard Nixon, even though what Nixon was alleged to have done seems far less serious that what Mrs. Clinton Did?

  16. Hillary Clinton undermined the principle that no man or woman is above the law. It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office — deliberately abusing the public trust without consequence. It is every American’s right that the criminal justice system be administered fairly, regardless of a person’s rank and connections.”

  17. Hellary Clinton and her “husband” slick willie have been using and abusing the good intentions of the American people for the vast majority of their lives. They have squirmed out of every horrific deed they have perpetrated using their knowledge of the law. Mr. Trump was elected because he vowed to put an end to such. The Ford pardon of Nixon shares a large part of the blame for the success of low life politicians and their scandalous ways. The fact that our system can be manipulated so easily can be traced directly to the lack of accountability these criminals face even when caught red blood handed. This is a country of laws. Laws without backbone are worthless. A country that stands upon a foundation of worthless laws will crumble.
    Depriving the people of due process is usurping one of our basic rights. Not allowing Americans to see that due process is carried to it’s rightful conclusion, is denying all of us closure.
    Don’t do it Mr. Obama.

  18. Rest assured, if O’Bummer “pardons” Killary, then Trump should go after him, as he was involved in this mess also. Claiming he didn’t know until it was released in the press is an out right lie.

  19. Does a Presidential pardon shield someone from legal discovery after the pardon? Surely the founders didn’t intend to allow Luciferian deeds be kept hidden.

  20. Does a Presidential pardon shield someone from legal discovery? Surely the Founders didn’t intend Luciferian deed anonymity.

  21. Well he has done as much elegal things as she has, why come they don`t impeach him before he gets to pardon her, they could kill two bird`s with one stone, just saying

  22. He shouldn’t that would actually unite the country by admitting she was/is a criminal. would give Obama legacy a recovery.
    The Clinton’s dig their own grave by constant corruption and malfeasance and need to take credit for their own wrongdoings.
    They need to get off the political stage and keep their inner circle away from DC too.
    Let the Country heal.

  23. If she ever gets pardoned, I would want her to stand in front of American Citizens and detail what she did, why she did it, and give the billion dollars in “donations” back. Jail time? She’d take over the jail.

  24. Now there is talk about pardoning dreamers/illegals, again for what? This would be a mass pardoning and I think it would require pardoning by name at least. Probably couldn’t be done in time and also would need to be specific as to the action or Trump could still go after them for something else..

  25. Okay from the article Bill Clinton at least had to know that keeping the classified information in Hillary’s home server was illegal since he pardoned someone for doing the same with a laptop. So Hillary’s claim that voting for her would be like having 2 presidents in the White House and that she would have access to Bills experience for guidence is somewhat blown out of the water as he apparently did not warn her against doing a similar action.

  26. So the question now becomes…if he pardons her, does that not say he knew crimes were committed? If so, would he also not be committing a crime? Conspiracy comes to mind for one? Therefore, he would also have to pardon, himself? can that be done? If he doe pardon the crook, he would be walking on very thin ice, and i believe it would break, and he would drown with her.

  27. My next question is, if obama pardons the clintons, can not Trump, as sitting president (after sworn in), Issue an executive order to overturn said pardon? Based on crimes against the United States as Treason? just curious.

      • Politics of revenge always backfires
        Trump is not a traitor, he is smart.
        Right now everybody should work together, no matter who is the President, and yes, i think Obama should pardon Hillary Clinton, and especially the two Generals who served their country for over 40 years David Petraeus and James Cartwright

  28. He did not give the Clintons a pardon , so there is the possibility that they can be charge if an investigation uncovers enough evidence to open a case.