Can Joe Biden Rescind Donald Trump's Pardons?

President Donald Trump issued 143 pardons and commutations on Tuesday on his last full day in office. Despite months of speculation, the president chose not to issue a pardon for himself.

The pardons were expected to be controversial and some have suggested that President-elect Biden could overturn them if they're viewed as "corrupt" or an abuse of presidential power.

One of the most high profile pardon recipients was former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, whom many regard as the architect of Trump's political career. Bannon was facing fraud charges in connection with an online fundraiser to build the southern border wall.

Trump also pardoned Elliot Broidy, who admitted to illegally lobbying the U.S. government and was once a fundraiser for the president, and Ken Kurson, a friend of Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner who was charged with cyberstalking in October last year.

There has also been speculation that Trump could issue "secret" pardons that might also be subject to revocation by the incoming Biden administration.

Experts who spoke to Newsweek in December argued that it was extremely unlikely that a correctly issued pardon could be rescinded.

Jeffrey Crouch is assistant professor of American politics at American University and author of The Presidential Pardon Power. He explained that there is little provision for canceling a pardon.

"A president almost never tries to take back a pardon, although an old court case called In Re De Puy describes how President Ulysses Grant successfully cancelled a conditional pardon granted by his predecessor, Andrew Johnson, before it was delivered," Crouch said.

Grant's actions may seem to set a precedent for Biden but the circumstances were complex. A properly delivered pardon, accepted by the recipient, cannot be revoked by a new president.

"More recently, George W. Bush took back a pardon from Isaac Robert Toussie and claimed he did so before it was delivered," Crouch said. "I argued in a journal article that Toussie's pardon was actually complete and couldn't be taken back."

Bush withdrew Toussie's pardon one day after issuing it in a decision that's still controversial. Toussie's father had donated $300,000 to the Republican Party, a fact that emerged only after the pardon was issued and prompted Bush's actions.

"[A]s long as a pardon is delivered, it is recognized as valid," Crouch said.

Brian C. Kalt, professor of law at Michigan State University, told Newsweek that there is little prospect of Trump's pardons being overturned.

"You can't overturn a valid pardon," Kalt said. "The only recourse would be to establish that it wasn't a valid pardon in the first place. So if Trump purported to pardon himself, prosecutors could go after him anyway, arguing that the pardon was invalid."

Trump has not issued a public pardon for himself and even the ability to challenge a self-pardon is disputed as no president has ever tried to do so. It's extremely likely that the outgoing president's pardons will stand.

Trump Steps Off Air Force One
President Donald Trump waves as he steps off Air Force One upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on January 12, 2021. Trump issued 143 pardons and commutations on 19 January. MANDEL NGAN / AFP/Getty Images