Lame-duck Trump pardons turkeys

Dylan Stableford
·Senior Writer

Failing in his efforts to overturn the election, and with his grip on the presidency slipping away, President Trump on Tuesday exercised a power of the office that all presidents since at least John F. Kennedy have wielded: He pardoned a turkey.

Actually two of them. The turkeys, named Corn and Cob, were pardoned in a formal ceremony in the White House Rose Garden. Attendees, including Trump’s daughter Ivanka, her husband, Jared Kushner, and their children, were seated in folding chairs spaced several feet apart. Most were wearing masks.

"These two magnificent gobblers were selected from the official presidential flock of 30 turkeys — some real beauties," Trump said, as first lady Melania Trump looked on.

"Corn, I hereby grant you a full pardon," the president said later, briefly touching its feathers. (Cob, who was not present but available as a backup, was also spared.)

After their trip to Washington, D.C., which included an overnight stay at a luxury hotel, the turkeys will be transported to Iowa State University, where Trump said he hoped they would have “a long, happy and memorable life.”

Donald Trump and Melania Trump looks on in the Rose Garden of the White House Tuesday. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
President Trump pardons a turkey as first lady Melania Trump looks on. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Both turkeys were born on July 2. The average lifespan of a domestic turkey is about 10 years.

The first president to pardon a turkey was Abraham Lincoln, who instructed the White House to save a bird given to him because his son had grown fond of it.

The goofy pardoning tradition dates back to 1963, when the Washington Post reported that Kennedy gave a “pardon” and “reprieve” to the Thanksgiving turkey, which has been presented at the White House by the National Turkey Federation since 1947, when Harry Truman was in office. President George H. W. Bush formalized the custom in 1989.

[Photos: Presidential turkey pardons — from Kennedy to Trump]

Trump began his remarks by boasting that the Dow Jones Industrial average had crossed 30,000 for the first time. Wall Street analysts, though, say optimism over President-elect Joe Biden's incoming administration is driving the recent stock surge. The president also touted advances in developing coronavirus vaccines in recent weeks. (There have been more than 12 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States; more than 259,000 Americans have died.)

The president did not mention the election, which he continues to falsely claim he won. Trump has refused to concede the race while continuing to lob baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud.

On Twitter Monday, Trump said he authorized the General Services Administration to formally begin the transition process after its top official, Emily Murphy, finally recognized Biden as the president-elect.

But Tuesday morning, the president continued his misinformation campaign, retweeting numerous false claims by the actor Randy Quaid that the election was rigged.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump leave the Rose Garden after pardoning the national Thanksgiving turkey on Tuesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump leave the Rose Garden after pardoning the national Thanksgiving turkey on Tuesday. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Trump also promised a “big lawsuit” that purportedly spells out the alleged fraud in great detail would be filed soon.

On Monday, the president's legal team lost its 38th court challenge to the election results in Pennsylvania. They have been successful in just one case, which did not affect the outcome.

Trump, who has pardoned numerous supporters and allies since taking office, has stoked speculation that he may try to pardon himself before leaving — as he is the subject of several ongoing investigations into his campaign, his business concerns and his personal behavior.

A 1974 Justice Department memo, written four days before President Richard Nixon’s resignation, explicitly states that the president “cannot pardon himself.”

The Justice Department opinion, however, has never been tested in court.

As he departed the Rose Garden turkey pardoning ceremony, a reporter shouted a question to Trump: “Will you be issuing a pardon for yourself?”

The president did not answer.

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