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Confederate Soldiers, Richard Nixon and Chelsea Manning: a look back at famous presidential pardons

Chelsea Manning at the 22nd Annual OUT100 Celebration Gala in New York on Nov. 9, 2017. (Dennis Van Tine/Abaca Press/TNS)

The list of pardons and commutations issued Wednesday by President Donald Trump includes some household names, like rapper Lil Wayne and political strategist Steve Bannon. They’re not the only notable people to receive clemency from the president. Here’s a look back at some famous examples of pardons past:

Every Confederate soldier

With the nation struggling to move on from the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson gave ex-Confederate soldiers a Christmas president on Dec. 25, 1868 — an unconditional pardon for all of them.

Johnson proclaimed the pardon would “renew and fully restore confidence and fraternal feeling among the whole, and their respect for and attachment to the national government, designed by its patriotic founders for the general good,” according to Politico.

Richard Nixon

In 1974, President Richard Nixon was granted one of the most controversial pardons in American history from his successor, President Gerald Ford. Nixon had not yet been charged with a crime for his involvement in the Watergate scandal, but Ford granted him a “full, free and absolute pardon” that precluded any charges being filed.

The pardon was deeply unpopular at the time, but many historians now see it as a necessary step for Ford, said Kristen Coopie, director of pre-law at the Duquesne University School of Law.

“It was really a way for him to have his own presidency, it was a way for the Nixon issue to be settled,” she said.

Patty Hearst

Heiress Patty Hearst was abducted in 1974 by the Symbionese Liberation Army, a domestic terrorist group that committed bank robberies, murders and other acts of violence in the name of fringe leftist ideals. She was 19 years old.

She was found and arrested in 1975, charged with having participated in a bank robbery and other SLA crimes. Hearst said she had been sexually assaulted, brainwashed and abducted by the SLA.

She was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Her sentence was commuted by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, and she was given a full pardon by President Bill Clinton in 2001.

George Steinbrenner

New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner was convicted in 1974 of making illegal contributions to Nixon’s reelection campaign. He was fined $15,00 and suspended from Major League Baseball for 15 months.

Ronald Reagan pardoned Steinbrenner in 1989.

Chelsea Manning

Manning, a former military intelligence analyst, leaked more than 700,000 classified documents and videos to WikiLeaks in 2010, one of the biggest leaks in U.S. history. Many of the leaked documents were published online and by major media outlets in 2010 and 2011.

Manning was arrested in 2010 and convicted in 2013 on 17 charges, including violating the Espionage Act, stealing government property and violating orders.

President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in 2017, freeing her.


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