ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
President Trump granted clemency to five people today, commuting their lengthy sentences. Many of his past acts of clemency have been for household names - former boxer Jack Johnson, former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, his former campaign adviser, Roger Stone. But these new cases are not. Four of the five people had been in prison because of drug offenses. The fifth had been sentenced for food stamp fraud. Here to tell us more about them, we're joined by NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.
AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello.
SHAPIRO: What can you tell us about these five people?
RASCOE: So, as you said, all five had long prison sentences. Three of them had been sentenced to life in prison. You know, for example, you had John Bolen. The White House says he was a small business owner who used his boat to transport cocaine. And he was sentenced to life. He has served 13 years in prison, but they say it was without incident and that during that time, you know, he's completed 1,300 hours of educational programming and has served as a suicide companion and mental health companion. So they're saying that he's had this great track record while he's in prison.
You also have Lenora Logan, who the White House says, you know, had turned her life around after being in prison for 27 years after being convicted in a cocaine conspiracy. They say that during her time in prison, Logan actually came to the aid of a prison nurse who was being assaulted by another inmate. And so these are the types of stories that activists say show the need to have more streamlined and more robust clemency process that allows more people to get their sentences shortened and for them to get out of prison.
SHAPIRO: Any idea how these particular cases came to the attention of the White House?
RASCOE: You know, it's not immediately clear, but these are cases that have been showcased by groups like CAN-DO Clemency and the Buried Alive Project. And these are groups that try to tell the stories behind the numbers and behind the petitions and to try to get action from the government, you know, on behalf of these prisoners. These are the same activists who worked on behalf of Alice Marie Johnson, who was granted clemency by Trump a few years back. And Johnson has worked with the White House on this issue to help get other people out and spoke at the Republican National Convention this summer. And Trump subsequently, after the RNC, offered Johnson a full pardon.
SHAPIRO: How does President Trump's record on clemency compare to other recent presidents?
RASCOE: He's done more in his first term. Recently - more recent presidents have been more reluctant because of potential political consequences of doing a lot of commutations early on. Obama, around - in his first term had done 23. George W. Bush had done 21 during his first term. Trump has done 43, including the five today. Now, I should say that Obama - by the time that he left office, he had done a record amount of commutations, more than 1,700.
SHAPIRO: But President Trump is known for some very controversial commutations, right? Put this into context for us.
RASCOE: Yeah, most of President Trump's partisan commutations have been for people who are politically connected or who appear on Fox News a lot or people who are his supporters, like conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza. He's also used the pardon process to make political statements. He pardoned, you know, Susan B. Anthony, who is long deceased but was someone who worked for women's voting rights, you know, as a part of celebrating women's history. And so that is the way that he has used the pardon process to kind of make statements.
SHAPIRO: That is NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe.
Thank you, Ayesha.
RASCOE: Thank you.
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