Georgia Can’t Change State’s 5-Year Pardon Wait for Trump Unless State Democrats Assist

Advisors to some of Georgia’s most powerful Republican politicians dampened prospects of any reforms that would give Gov. Brian Kemp (R) direct authority to pardon those convicted of crimes, including former President Donald Trump.

Earlier this week, I explained why Trump won’t be eligible for a pardon in Georgia for five years if he’s found guilty of the charges brought by District Attorney Fanni Willis. Under Georgia’s constitution, Gov. Brian Kemp doesn’t have the authority to pardon the former president. Georgia’s legal system is structured with an independent board that grants or denies requests for pardons.

After hearing about Georgia’s unique system for pardons, Trump’s defenders began pressing the most powerful Republicans in the state to initiate reforms for Trump to be pardoned. Reforming Georgia’s pardon system in place would require a constitutional amendment, which can only happen with a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly and support from a majority of voters in a referendum. It can’t pass without significant Democratic support, which means that there is no hope for such a change to be made to accommodate Trump and his supporters.

In an excerpt from the Atlanta Journal Constitution (Georgia’s largest newspaper, not a legal document) Kemp adviser Cody Hall compared the conspiracy theories that dominated pro-Trump circles in the last presidential election to the pressure campaign now to overhaul the pardon process.

“Where have I heard special session, changing decades-old law, and overturning constitutional precedent before?” Hall asked. “Oh right, prior to Republicans losing two Senate runoffs in January of 2021.”

He added: “What are people hoping to learn in the second kick of the election-losing mule?”

A top deputy to House Speaker Jon Burns also dismissed the idea.

“Given the political makeup of the General Assembly,” Burns spokesman Kaleb McMichen said, “such an amendment is not feasible and thus would not merit consideration.”

Matt O'Hern
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