Who Did Barack Obama Pardon?

President Donald Trump's decision to pardon his former national security advisor Michael Flynn has brought presidential pardons back into the spotlight, with more acts of clemency expected during the lame duck period.

Flynn is a high profile case as he admitted lying to the FBI and agreed to co-operate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe but later sought to withdraw his guilty plea.

Trump's predecessor, former President Barack Obama, never pardoned anyone who had a public profile as prominent as Flynn's but he did issue 212 pardons and 1,715 commutations during his time in office, according to Pew Research.

Obama's two most famous pardons came on January 17, 2017—his fourth last day in the White House.

The recipients were retired U.S. Marine Corps four star general James Cartwright and professional baseball player Willie McCovey.

Cartwright had served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and had pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his meetings with David Sanger, author of Confront and Conceal.

The investigation was probing how classified information allegedly ended up in Sanger's book. Sanger maintained that Cartwright had never provided him with classified information and the general was never charged with leaking classified material. His security clearance was restored following his pardon.

McCovey had played for the San Francisco Giants for 19 seasons and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. However, in 1996 he pled guilty to federal tax fraud was sentenced to two years probation and a fine of $5,000. He had failed to report around $10,000 in income from 1988-90. McCovey passed away in 2018, just over a year after his pardon.

Obama's other 210 pardons were not high profile and generally involved low-level offenders who were not in prominent positions or household names. He issued pardons for various drugs offenses, such as cocaine use and possession, conspiracy to distribute methamphetamines and conspiracy to import marijuana.

On May 20, 2011 Obama pardoned Georgia man Bobby Gerald Wilson for aiding and abetting the possession and sale of illegal American alligator hides in violation of the Lacey Act. This was perhaps the most unique case involving a pardon during his time in office.

Obama also holds the record for the most commutations on a single day as he granted 330 to non-violent drug offenders on January 19, 2017—one day before he left office. The Obama administration had encouraged federal prisoners to apply for commutation under the Clemency Initiative, which helps to explain why he had so many commutations compared to relatively few pardons.

Obama Gives His Final Presidential Press Conference
US President Barack Obama gives his final presidential press conference on January 18, 2017, at the White House in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama said Wednesday he would take a break from politics upon leaving office, but would not hesitate to speak up if America's "core values" are questioned, citing concerns about discrimination and freedom of the press. Obama granted 212 pardons. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images