10 of the most controversial presidential pardons Associated Press
Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio leaves the federal courthouse on Thursday, July 6, 2017, in Phoenix. The former Maricopa County sheriff's criminal trial concluded Thursday. Arpaio is charged with misdemeanor contempt of court for violating a 2011 order to stop the patrols that a judge later determined racially profiled Latinos. (AP Photo/Angie Wang)

With the pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, President Donald Trump drew controversy to his administration, but he was not the first president to attract the ire of the public for issuing pardons.

Here are 10 other controversial presidential pardons.

1. The Whiskey Rebels, 1794

Congress enacted a steep tax on spirits in 1791 to help pay down the national debt, and hard-hit small producers protested by taking to the streets in western Pennsylvania. The brief rebellion was quickly put down, and the leaders were initially charged with treason. Two were convicted, but President George Washington pardoned them.

It was the first pardon in American history that overturned a criminal conviction.

2. Confederate citizens, 1865

After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, President Andrew Johnson took office. As he moved forward on reconstructing the South, he pardoned many Southerners on the condition that they would take an oath of loyalty to the Union.

But Johnson, who grew up poor and had a dislike of the rich and privileged, wouldn’t grant blanket amnesty to several classes of Southerners, requiring leaders and wealthy men to obtain their own special Presidential pardons.

An undated photo of President Andrew Johnson. (AP Photo)

3. Jimmy Hoffa, 1971

Hoffa, the famous head of the Teamsters union, had been serving a 15-year prison sentence for jury tampering and fraud when President Richard Nixon pardoned him on Dec. 23, 1971. The pardon was given on one condition: Hoffa should “not engage in direct or indirect management of any labor organization” until at least March 1980. Hoffa agreed and supported Nixon’s re-election bid in 1972.

Reports have it that Hoffa was trying to reassert his power over the Teamsters, defying Nixon’s requirement, when he disappeared in 1975.

Jimmy Hoffa in January 1967. (AP Photo)

4. Richard Nixon, 1974

Speaking of President Nixon – a little over a year after he resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal, he was pardoned by President Gerald Ford.

Ford announced the pardon on live television, saying in 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.” Ford then went on to lose the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter.

5. Vietnam draft dodgers, 1977

President Jimmy Carter fulfilled a controversial campaign promise on his first day in office, pardoning those who did not serve in Vietnam by fleeing the U.S. or not registering for the draft. He did, however, exclude many groups of individuals from the pardon: deserters were not eligible, nor were soldiers who had received less-than-honorable discharges. Also not included were the civilians who had protested the war.

6. Deep Throat (Mark Felt) and Edward Miller, 1981

Felt and Miller became the two highest ranking convicted criminals in the FBI. They were found guilty in 1978 of breaking into Vietnam protesters’ homes and offices without warrants during the Nixon presidency. Felt was the Deep Throat source for Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

President Ronald Reagan stepped in after three years of prosecution proceedings, pardoning the two men who “acted on high principle to bring an end to the terrorism that was threatening our nation.”

Former FBI officials W. Mark Felt, right, and Edward S. Miller arrives at U.S. District Court on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 1980. (AP Photo/Jeff Taylor)

7. George Steinbrenner, 1989

The bombastic late owner of the New York Yankees was indicted on 14 criminal counts in 1974, and pled guilty to obstruction of justice and conspiring to make illegal contributions to President Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign.

Not wanting to appear soft on crime, President Ronald Reagan would only pardon Steinbrenner if the Yankees’ owner admitted to the act.

8. Caspar Weinberger, 1992

The Iran-Contra affair was a huge scandal in the early 1990s, as U.S. officials were charged with transferring anti-tank missiles to Iranian forces.

Former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was charged with lying to the independent counsel investigating the affair after he resigned in 1987. But the pardon by President George H.W. Bush essentially halted the legal proceedings against Weinberger and his fellow defendants, as well as against Bush himself, who could have been called to testify as a former member of the Reagan administration.

Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in June 1986. (AP Photo/John Duricka)

9. Patty Hearst, 2001

An urban guerrilla group called the Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped Hearst in 1974 and apparently turned her to their cause. Two months later, she was photographed holding an assault rifle while robbing a bank. She was later caught and convicted of bank robbery in 1976.

Her sentence was commuted in 1978, but President Bill Clinton gave her a full pardon on the last day of his presidency.

U.S. marshals escort Patty Hearst from San Francisco’s Federal Building in San Francisco, Feb. 3, 1976, where jury selection continued in her bank robbery trial. (AP Photo)

10. Marc Rich, 2001

In 1983, financier Marc Rich was indicted for evading more than $48 million in taxes, and charged with 51 counts of tax fraud, as well as running illegal oil deals with Iran during the 1979-1980 hostage crisis.

During his last week in office, President Bill Clinton pardoned Rich, who had fled the U.S. during his prosecution and was residing in Switzerland. The pardon caused an investigation into Clinton because of his ties to Rich’s family, but no charges were ever brought.

Joshua Trudell About the author:
Joshua Trudell is a freelance writer, photographer and graphic designer living in New Hampshire. Follow Joshua on Twitter and Facebook and check out his website.
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