The commission would supplement or replace the Justice Department’s opaque Office of the Pardon Attorney, which critics say is inherently biased in favor of prosecutors.
A new clemency commission can be created without Congress. The idea has support from both left-wing and conservative advocates, who note Trump’s repeated musing about the unfairness of the criminal justice system, including a remark in October that “a lot of people” are in prison for “no reason” and that he was “actively looking” to address that.
Trump has nearly unchecked power to pardon or release federal inmates — an authority he’s already used in unconventional ways, breaking with stingy recent predecessors to give nine early-term pardons or commutations, including the first pardons to currently incarcerated inmates since the 1800s.
“The reason you haven’t seen anything done yet is that there are only 24 hours in the day, and this requires some thought,” said Heritage Foundation scholar Paul Larkin, who advocates a clemency review process headed by the vice president.
Larkin attended a September meeting at the White House hosted by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Kim Kardashian West joined a dozen reformers around a Roosevelt Room table, where guests discussed commission ideas.
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