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Clarence Aaron Commutation: ‘Not a Tough Decision’

On Sunday, Samuel Morison was a guest on the Melissa Harris-Perry program to discuss the handling of Clarence Aaron’s clemency application. As our Dafna Linzer has reported, Aaron’s request to have his sentence commuted was torpedoed by Ronald Rodgers, the pardon attorney in the Justice Department who failed to convey crucial information to the Bush Administration, including the fact that the prosecutor and judge in Aaron’s case had called for Aaron’s sentence to be commuted.

Morison, who handled the case for the Office of the Pardon Attorney, explained how presidents rely on the Justice Department’s recommendations and generally have no further knowledge of the requests they receive than what the pardons office shares with them. Morison said that the president “has no independent way of verifying whether he is being told the truth and whether there are any other facts that he needs to know. So he has to be able to trust what he is being told. The problem with that, is unfortunately, the Justice Department, in my view, has a completely partisan view of how this power should be handled. And in that sense, I don’t really think they’re serving the best interest of the presidency, they’re serving the institutional interests of the Justice Department. And those aren’t necessarily the same thing.”

Morison added, “President Obama could solve this problem this afternoon...if he asked my opinion, I would tell him, ‘since you’ve been elected to office, Mr. President, you’ve had to make a lot of tough decisions. This isn’t one of them.’ There is no reasonable person who really believes Clarence Aaron deserves to die in prison.”

Watch the full segment below.

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Mike Webb

Mike Webb was the vice president/communications of ProPublica. He is a veteran communications specialist with experience in public relations, marketing, sales and campaign work at media companies, think tanks, political organizations and in the entertainment business.

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