Fact Check Debunks Claim Reagan Pardoned 900 Criminals


Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said Sunday that President Ronald Reagan issued 900 pardons.

Verdict: False

Reagan pardoned 393 people and commuted the sentences of 13 people.

Fact Check:

Giuliani mentioned Reagan’s pardons while talking about President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen. Cohen, who allegedly arranged a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, is reportedly under investigation for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations.

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This Week” host George Stephanopoulos asked whether Trump’s legal team ever suggested to Cohen that a pardon was on the table. Giuliani, who joined Trump’s legal team in April, said that Trump’s lawyers have not discussed pardoning Cohen.

“Does the President have the unfettered power, as President Clinton had, President Reagan? I used to have the pardon attorney worked (sic) for me with President Reagan,” said Giuliani, who served as associate attorney general during the Reagan administration. “He gave out 900 pardons, far fewer than — than Obama or — or President Trump.”

Reagan pardoned fewer than half the number of people that Giuliani claimed. Department of Justice figures show that he gave 393 full presidential pardons, which fully forgive and nullify convictions for federal crimes, and 13 people received commutations – reductions of sentences. In total, Reagan granted clemency to 406 people.

President Barack Obama pardoned 212 people and commuted the sentence of 1,715 people, for a total of 1,927 people granted clemency — the most since President Harry Truman.

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Obama, though, granted a smaller percentage of clemency requests than almost all of his predecessors. He received a surge of requests due in part to his administration’s clemency initiative to commute the sentences of non-violent drug offenders.


Trump has pardoned three people and commuted the sentence of one person so far. Most recently, he pardoned Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby got caught up in events surrounding the leak of the identity of a CIA officer and was convicted on counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements to investigators.

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Trump and former Bush administration officials thought that Libby was “treated unfairly,” but Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff thought that the pardon was a signal that Trump would protect those implicated in the Russia investigation.

Trump also raised eyebrows when he pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt for defying a court order to stop patrols targeting suspected illegal immigrants. Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake criticized the pardon, saying that it undermined the rule of law. Arpaio is now running for Senate in Arizona.

Many presidents have been criticized for grants of clemency.

In the final week of his presidency, Obama commuted the sentence of former Army private Chelsea Manning, who leaked more than 700,000 classified and sensitive documents to WikiLeaks. “The sentence that she received was very disproportionate(ly) relative to what other leakers have received,” Obama said. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress criticized the move, viewing Manning’s leak as an act of treason.

After President Richard Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal, President Gerald Ford gave him a full pardon for all federal crimes that he “committed or may have committed or taken part in” while in office. Ford thought that Nixon could not be tried fairly in court. “I feel that Richard Nixon and his loved ones have suffered enough,” he said. Some called the pardon “naive” and worried that it could give the appearance of a quid pro quo.

President Bill Clinton pardoned “fugitive financier” Marc Rich and his partner Pincus Green along with more than 100 other people on his last day in office. Rich lived in exile in Switzerland and Spain after being indicted in 1983 on dozens of counts of tax evasion, wire fraud and racketeering. Clinton later regretted pardoning Rich. “It wasn’t worth the damage to my reputation,” he said about a year after leaving office.

President Jimmy Carter issued a blanket pardon for Vietnam draft dodgers on his first day in office. Critics said that the pardon would embolden people to evade the draft in the future and that it did a disservice to those who served honorably. (The DOJ does not count these pardons in its clemency statistics.)

Some commentators and academics argue that a Trump pardon for Cohen could constitute obstruction of justice. When asked in April whether he would pardon Cohen, Trump said that was a “stupid question.” Giuliani expressed a similar sentiment.

“That obviously is not on the table. That’s not a decision to be made now. There’s no reason to pardon anybody now,” Giuliani said on “This Week.”

Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment.

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