Under the standard process, clemency seekers submit applications to the Justice Department, where the Office of the Pardon Attorney determines whether the petitions meet the criteria for a pardon or commutation. Then the deputy attorney general reviews those recommendations and submits a set of files to the White House.
Trump has essentially cut the department out of the process, establishing a White House panel to oversee clemency and accepting informal recommendations from celebrities such as Kim Kardashian West, who successfully lobbied the president in 2018 to grant clemency to Alice Johnson, a nonviolent offender convicted for her role in a drug operation.
“I don’t know what process they’re doing. I have no idea,” says Norman Reimer, who runs the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which delivered a set of clemency petitions to the White House in October, including one for Weiss. “It’s an amorphous situation.”