When he was president, Donald Trump used the pardon power to help friends and political allies. Now we’ve learned from the Jan. 6 committee hearings that members of his inner circle asked for pardons to shield themselves from prosecution, before they were even charged with a crime. But what about the people who applied for pardons through the official process and are still waiting for answers? We go beyond the headlines and tell the story of a pardons system that’s completely broken down.
We begin our show by looking at the rarest of pardons: when the person receiving a pardon is the president. When in office, Trump tweeted that he had the authority to pardon himself, a concept that first was discussed during the Nixon administration. In that case, former President Richard Nixon eventually was pardoned by the next president, Gerald Ford. In this story, we hear some rare archival tape in which Ford explains in his own words why he decided to pardon his predecessor.
In the next story, we look at the case of Charles “Duke” Tanner, a boxer who was sentenced to life in federal prison after being convicted of drug trafficking. His arrest came during the war on drugs, which started in the 1980s, disproportionately putting tens of thousands of Black men in prison for decades. Tanner applied for clemency twice; his application was just one among 13,000 others waiting for a decision at the federal Office of the Pardon Attorney when this show first aired in 2019. That number has grown to nearly 17,000 as of today. We end with a heartwarming update in the Tanner story.
This is an update of an episode that originally aired July 6, 2019.
Reported and produced by: Michael I Schiller and Anna Hamilton | Data analysis: Melissa Lewis | Edited by: Taki Telonidis | Associate producer: Najib Aminy | Production manager: Amy Mostafa | Production assistance: Brett Simpson | Sound design and music by: Jim Briggs and Fernando Arruda, with help from Katherine Rae Mondo and Brett Simpson | Digital producer: Sarah Mirk | Episode Art: Molly Mendoza | Host: Al Letson
Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.