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President Pardons the Tiger King

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phillips, hunt & walker on (and the President’s pardon power generally):

If you watched Tiger King, you know who Joseph A Maldonado-Passage is. If you didn’t watch Tiger King, you probably still know who he is. Joe is currently in a federal prison in Texas for issues regarding allegedly engaging in communications to do harm to Carole Baskin and added on charges related to the death or disposal of animals.


His team has been very vocal about Joe getting a last minute pardon by President Trump. Indeed, Trump is expected to pardon or give clemency to several individuals, including Lil Wayne, during his last 36 hours in office.

However, there is a procedure, and heavy political capital, involved. Of course, President Trump is free to essentially disregard any formal procedure. Indeed, that’s why many thought he may just be renegade enough to “free Joe Exotic.” He’s even tweeted about it… when he had a Twitter account.

Acting Pardon Attorney Rosalind Sargent-Burns said on September 10 that Maldonado-Passage’s request for waiver was being denied. An attorney helping Joe Exotic then filed a lawsuit in federal court on December 16 to order the U.S. Justice Department to forward his pardon request to Trump for consideration. The court pointed out flaws in the lawsuit. However, some believe that it has not been forwarded to the White House legal team- if not the President himself. One word can be used to describe that team right now- chaos. Even the “my pillow” guy is bouncing from the President’s office to counsel’s office trying to convince them of conspiracy theories.


Even if the DOJ or White House considers it, it’s a mess over there. Litigation involving Trump has lawyers overwhelmed and some are concerned about their careers after December 20 and subsequent appointments. Many are engaged in retaliatory conduct at the urging of the President. This pardon would seemingly not help or hurt their agenda in any way. In fact, Baskin has embedded lobbyists of her own. Others involved at this level of decision making or justification are career government workers and this type of maneuvering is just not normal or something they’d consider. It would come down to Trump’s attention and fancy. I don’t see it happening with all that he has at stake right now.

Also, many of those pardoned have already been told. There is no inclination “Team Tiger” has heard that the pardon has been issued. So despite the plans to get Joe to hair and makeup for a party after, and a limo parked blocks from the prison, it’s this lawyer’s guess that Joe Exotic has once again been hyped for failure.

As recently reported, the clause granting presidential clemency power does not require a pardon to be publicly revealed: Article II, Section 2 merely says the president “shall have the power to grant reprieves and pardon offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” This section contains no other restrictions on presidential pardoning power. Of course, a current inmate cannot be “secretly pardoned.” They have to be notified as does the prison.

And it can be broad and unspecific. Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon encompassed “all offenses against the United States” which Nixon had or may have committed during his term in office. However, the Nixon pardon is not, however, legal precedent, as it was never tested in court. Some of these will likely have US Attorneys willing to do so.

President Trump very well may leave office issuing a host of pardons, including some only to be used in case those close to him (or him) are charged. However, based on what we know and are hearing, Joe Exotic will not be among them. We wish him well.

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