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Final executive clemency update of Trump presidency

The U.S. Constitution, in Article II, Section 2, grants the president the power of executive clemency. Executive clemency includes the power to pardon, in which the president overturns a federal conviction and restores “an individual to the state of innocence that existed before the conviction.” From 2017-2021, Donald Trump (R) issued 143 pardons and 94 commutations. That averages out to about 36 pardons per year and 24 commutations per year. 

Trump’s 143 total pardons are the most by a one-term president since Jimmy Carter (D), who issued 534 total pardons. His 36 average annual pardons are the most of any president since Bill Clinton (D).

Trump issued the second-most commutations since Lyndon Johnson (D), behind Barack Obama who issues 1,715 commutations. Trump’s average annual commutations issued are also second-most since Johnson.

Since 1902, presidents have issued 14,333 pardons (about 120 per year) and 6,641 commutations (about 56 per year). Democratic presidents issued 8,393 pardons and 4,103 commutations, while Republican presidents issued 5,940 pardons and 2,538 commutations. The president to issue the most pardons in that span was Franklin Roosevelt (2,819) and the president to issue the most commutations in that span was Obama (1,715).



U.S. Senate acquits former President Trump of incitement of insurrection

The U.S. Senate acquitted President Donald Trump (R) of incitement of insurrection on Feb. 13. All 50 Democrats and seven Republicans voted guilty. The other 43 Republicans voted not guilty. The seven Republicans to vote guilty were:

◦ Richard Burr (R-N.C.)

◦ Bill Cassidy (R-La.)

◦ Susan Collins (R-Maine)

◦ Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska)

◦ Mitt Romney (R-Utah)

◦ Ben Sasse (R-Neb.)

◦ Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)

Trump is the only president to be impeached twice by the House. Trump was previously acquitted of abuse of power by a vote of 52-48 and obstruction of Congress by a vote of 53-47 on Feb. 5, 2020.



Biden signs 28 executive orders in first two weeks in office

President Joe Biden (D) signed 28 executive orders, 11 presidential memoranda, and five proclamations in his first two weeks in office.

That is more executive orders than his three predecessors combined—Presidents Donald Trump (R), Barack Obama (D), and George W. Bush (R)—signed over the same period of time.

Executive orders are directives written by the president to officials within the executive branch requiring them to take or stop some action related to policy or management. They are numbered, published in the Federal Register, and cite the authority by which the president is making the order.

Presidential memoranda also include instructions directed at executive officials, but they are neither numbered nor have the same publication requirements. The Office of Management and Budget is also not required to issue a budgetary impact statement on the subject of the memoranda.

In his 2014 book, By Order of the President: The Use and Abuse of Executive Direct Action, Phillip J. Cooper, a professor of public administration at Portland State University, wrote, “As a practical matter, the memorandum is now being used as the equivalent of an executive order, but without meeting the legal requirements for an executive order.”

Proclamations are a third type of executive directive that typically relate to private individuals or ceremonial events, such as holidays and commemorations.



President Biden has not made any federal judicial appointments through February 1 of his first year in office

As of February 1, 2021, President Joe Biden (D) had not appointed any Article III federal judges. The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through February 1 of their first year in office is zero. 

Through the first year in office, President Ronald Reagan (R) made the most appointments with 41, and President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 13.

Through the fourth year in office, President Donald Trump (R) made the most appointments with 234. President Ronald Reagan (R) made the fewest in that time with 166.

Article III federal judges are appointed for life terms by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate per Article III of the United States Constitution. Article III judges include judges on the: Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. courts of appeal, U.S. district courts, and the Court of International Trade.

Upon assuming office, President Biden inherited 46 Article III lifetime federal judicial vacancies. As of February 1, there were 57 vacancies. 

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Senate confirms first Biden Cabinet nominee

The Senate confirmed Avril Haines as director of national intelligence on January 20, 2021, by a vote of 84-10. Haines previously served as an assistant to the president and principal deputy national security advisor during the Obama administration. Ten Republican senators voted against her confirmation:

  • Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)
  • Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.)
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)
  • Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.)
  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)
  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
  • Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.)
  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
  • Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho)

Haines is the first member of President Joe Biden (D)’s Cabinet to be confirmed. Prior to the Senate vote, Biden announced that Lora Shiao would serve as the acting director of national intelligence until Haines was sworn in.



Trump issues 74 pardons, 70 commutations on last day of term

On January 20, 2021, President Donald Trump (R) issued 74 pardons and 70 commutations. Among those pardoned included former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, former U.S. Reps. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) and Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), and the rappers Lil’ Wayne and Kodak Black.

These final pardons and commutations bring the total for Trump’s term to 143 pardons and 94 commutations. Trump issued the fewest pardons of any president since George H.W. Bush (R) (the most recent one-term president) but issued more per year than either Barack Obama (D) or George W. Bush (R).

Since fiscal year 1902, when Teddy Roosevelt (R) was in office, presidents have issued a total of 14,333 pardons and 6,641 commutations. Of those, Democratic presidents issued 8,393 pardons and 4,103 commutations, while Republican presidents issued 5,940 pardons and 2,538 commutations.

Between fiscal years 1902 and 2021, Franklin Roosevelt (D) issued, on average, more pardons than any other president, averaging 234.9 pardons per year. Between fiscal years 1902 and 2021, Lyndon Johnson (D) was the only president to issue no pardons or commutations during his final fiscal year in office.



Ballotpedia’s Daily Brew: Average MOV in last year’s House races—29 percentage points

Average margin of victory in last year’s U.S. House races was lowest since at least 2012

The average margin of victory (MOV) in last year’s U.S. House elections was 28.8 percentage points, down from 31.8 percentage points in 2018 and the narrowest average MOV in U.S. House elections since at least 2012. Ballotpedia has analyzed the margin of victory in congressional elections after each election cycle from 2012 to the present. 

The average Democratic winner of a U.S. House election had a MOV of 31.5 percentage points. The average Republican winner’s MOV was 26.0 percentage points.

The margin of victory refers to the difference between the vote shares of the winning and losing candidates. For example, if Candidate A defeated Candidate B, 55% to 45%, the margin of victory is 10 percentage points. 

The average MOV in last year’s 35 Senate elections was 18.1 percentage points. That’s up from 2018’s 16.8 percentage point MOV, but less than any other year since 2012.

In 2020, there were:

  • Five Senate races decided by margins less than five percentage points—Democrats won four of these and Republicans won one,
  • Twelve Senate races decided by margins between five and 15 percentage points—Republicans won eight and Democrats won four, and
  • Eighteen Senate races decided by margins more than 15 percentage points—Republicans won 11 and Democrats won seven.

In 2018, the closest U.S. House election was incumbent Rob Woodall’s (R) 433-vote win over Carolyn Bourdeaux (D) in Georgia’s 7th Congressional District. Last year, three U.S. House elections were decided by margins of 500 votes or fewer. 

  • Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District—Mariannette Miller-Meeks’ (R) defeated Rita Hart (D) by six votes in the closest U.S. House election since 1984. 
  • New York’s 22nd Congressional District—Claudia Tenney (R) currently leads incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D) by 29 votes. These results have not yet been certified, and the outcome of this election has not yet been determined.
  • California’s 25th Congressional District—Incumbent Mike Garcia (R) defeated Christy Smith (D) by 333 votes.

Republican candidates won seven of the closest U.S. House races. Democrats won two of those races, and the outcome of New York’s 22nd District has not been decided.

Of the 434 called U.S. House elections, there were:

  • Thirty-six decided by margins less than five percentage points. Democratic candidates won 19, and Republicans won 17,
  • Eighty-two decided by margins between five and 15 percentage points, with Republicans winning 44 and Democrats winning 38.
  • Three hundred and sixteen decided by more than 15 percentage points. Democrats won 165 of these, and Republicans won 151.

The map below shows the location of all U.S. House races decided by a MOV of 5 percentage points or less. Democrats won in the 19 districts shaded in blue, and Republicans won in the 17 districts colored red. 

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Biden to be inaugurated as 46th president 

Later today, President-elect Joe Biden (D) will be inaugurated as the nation’s 46th president. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will also be sworn in as the 49th vice president of the United States, becoming the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to serve in the office. The events are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Due to security concerns stemming from the breach of the U.S. Capitol, up to 25,000 National Guard members are expected to be in Washington, D.C. The National Mall is closed to the general public, and there will be no public parade from the Capitol to the White House.

The ceremony will be broadcast on major television networks and streamed online on various platforms. President Donald Trump (R) will not participate in the event. The last president to skip his successor’s inauguration for political reasons was Andrew Johnson in 1869.

After Harris is inaugurated as vice president, she is expected to swear in Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) to the U.S. Senate.

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Register for our Jan. 21 briefing on Pivot County election results

We’re hosting our first webinar of the year on Thursday—Jan. 21—with an in-depth look at Pivot Counties. Ballotpedia identified 206 counties nationwide that voted for Barack Obama (D) in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections and Donald Trump (R) in 2016. 

We’ll start with why we began tracking these counties in 2016, and we’ll introduce you to our two new definitions—Retained and Boomerang Counties. Retained Pivot Counties are those Trump won in 2020, while Joe Biden won Boomerang Pivot Counties.

In this week’s briefing, we’ll review the results from these counties and the numbers of counties in each category. We’ll also explore Pivot County demographics and turnout, what role these counties played in 2020, and how they might continue to shape politics in the future. 

The briefing is at 11 a.m. CT on Jan. 21, and you can register—for free—by clicking on the link below. And if you can’t listen to the presentation live, we’ll send you a link to the recording when it’s available so you can watch it on your schedule. I hope you’ll join us!

Register here!



Biden to be inaugurated as 46th president

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States on Jan. 20. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will also be sworn in as the 49th vice president of the United States, becoming the first Black woman and person of South Asian descent to serve in the office.

Due to security concerns stemming from the breach of the U.S. Capitol, up to 25,000 National Guard members are expected to be in Washington, D.C. The National Mall will be closed to the general public, and there will be no public parade from the Capitol to the White House.

The ceremony will be streamed on https://bideninaugural.org/watch/ and broadcast across all major television networks and platforms.

President Donald Trump (R) will not participate in the event. The last incumbent president to skip his successor’s inauguration for political reasons was Andrew Johnson in 1869.



Federal Register weekly update: Trump administration’s highest weekly final rule total 

Banner with the words "The Administrative State Project"

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.

From January 11 through January 15, the Federal Register grew by 3,138 pages for a year-to-date total of 4,874 pages. Over the same period in 2020, 2019, and 2018, the Federal Register reached 1,730 pages, 106 pages, and 2,028 pages, respectively. As of January 15, the 2021 total led the 2020 total by 3,144 pages, the 2019 total by 4,768 pages, and the 2018 total by 2,846 pages. 

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 730 documents:

• 558 notices

• four presidential documents

• 50 proposed rules

• 118 final rules

One proposed rule withdrawing three proposed rules previously issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and three final rules concerning drinking water, unmanned aircraft systems, and small businesses certification were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Trump administration in 2021 has issued two significant proposed rules and five significant final rules.

Not all rules issued by the Trump administration are regulatory actions. Some rules are deregulatory actions pursuant to President Trump’s (R) Executive Order 13771, which requires federal agencies to eliminate two old significant regulations for each new significant regulation issued.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan, encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017.

Additional reading:

  • Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018.


Trump administration’s 2-for-1 regulatory policy in review

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) issued a 2020 update on the Trump administration’s 2-for-1 regulatory policy as part of the Fall 2020 edition of the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions. The 2-for-1 policy applies to economically significant rules—those with an anticipated economic impact of $100 million or more. The update featured the following highlights:

• Agencies eliminated $198.6 billion in overall regulatory costs across the federal government in fiscal year 2020.

• Agencies eliminated 5.5 regulations for every new significant regulation added.

• Agencies issued 538 deregulatory actions overall.

From 2017 to 2019, agencies eliminated a cumulative $50.9 billion in regulatory costs.

The Trump administration as of January 15, 2021, had yet to publish a formal update on the 2-for-1 regulatory policy. An analysis by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, however, concluded that the administration issued 101 completed deregulatory actions and 31 completed regulatory actions in fiscal year 2020 for a 3-to-1 ratio. OIRA reported a 1.7-to-1 ratio in 2019, a 4-to-1 ratio in 2018, and a 22-to-1 ratio in 2017.

President Donald Trump (R) enacted the 2-for-1 regulatory policy via Executive Order 13771 in January 2017. The order instituted annual regulatory budgets for federal agencies and required agencies to eliminate two old regulations for each new regulation issued. The future of the 2-for-1 regulatory policy under the incoming Biden administration remains unclear.

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