FACT CHECK: Can Brian Kemp Pardon Donald Trump?

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

Several commentators have suggested that Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp should pardon former President Donald Trump.

Verdict: False

Kemp cannot pardon Trump, according to Georgia law and experts.

Fact Check:

Trump and several others were recently indicted by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, according to The Associated Press. Since his indictment, commentators have criticized Kemp for not looking to pardon Trump.

The suggestion that Kemp can pardon Trump, however, ignores that Georgia governors do not have pardon power. The pardon power is held by the Board of Pardons and Paroles, not the governor, according to the Georgia Justice Project. The Board of Pardons and Paroles website states that each member is appointed by Georgia’s governor for seven year terms.

Garrison Douglas, Kemp’s press secretary, told Check Your Fact that the power of pardon is  “[solely] vested in the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.” Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, told Check Your Fact in an email that “Georgia’s governor lost the power to issue pardons about 80 years ago.”

“As a result of scandals involving the selling of pardons, Georgia’s governor lost the power to issue pardons about 80 years ago.  The pardoning power rests with the Board of Pardons and Paroles.  The governor appoints members to 7-year terms. Under Georgia law and precedent, if Trump or any of the others who have been indicted are convicted, they would have to serve a minimum of 5 years before they would be eligible for a pardon.  There is no precedent in GA, unlike the power of the president vis-a-vis federal charges, to issue a preemptive pardon,” Bullock said.

Clark Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University, echoed Bullock. (RELATED: Nikki Haley Claims China Has The Largest Navy In The World)

“No, in Georgia pardons are handled by a State Board of Pardons and Paroles (Governor appoints the members.),” Cunningham said.

The Georgia Justice Project states that people can only apply to get pardons if a person “completed all sentences at least five (5) years before applying (this means that you have been off parole or probation for five years).”

Bullock and Cunningham also threw cold water over the idea that Kemp could intervene in the case. Cunningham said that the “only possible way [for Kemp to intervene] would be if DA Willis was removed for some reason – then the Governor appoints the new DA until the next election.”

“I don’t know what Kemp could do stop the momentum.  Nor do I think he would want to take action.  While he has been very restrained in critiques of the former president, Kemp is on record saying that he does not believe that Trump’s strategy would make him a winner in 2024,” Bullock said.

Kemp signed a bill in May 2023 that would allow a state commission to remove or punish prosecutors, according to The Associated Press. Several Georgia prosecutors sued, looking to get the law struck down, the outlet reported.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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