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Trump pardons Drumstick the Turkey: “I feel so good about myself doing this”

The president figures out one part of Obama’s legacy he can’t undo: turkey pardons.

President Trump And First Lady Melania Hold National Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning Ceremony Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

“I hear that beautiful turkey,” President Donald Trump mused as he entered the Rose Garden on Tuesday to kick off the annual White House Turkey pardon.

That beautiful Turkey was Drumstick, a 36-pound bird spared death during this seasonal ritual. Trump only pardoned Drumstick at the ceremony, but despite the wishes of the American people, a second turkey, Wishbone, will also be allowed to live and comfortably retire to a farm in Virginia known as “Gobbler’s Rest.”

Trump has made one very controversial pardon during his tenure so far, but Drumstick’s reprieve went pretty smoothly — just maybe with fewer dad jokes than during Obama’s tenure.

“In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I will grant a presidential pardon to a Turkey,” Trump announced. He compared himself to Harry Truman, the first president to receive a turkey from the National Turkey Foundation, who Trump said “refused” to pardon the turkeys. (This is true — the first president to actually pardon a turkey, according to Snopes, was George H.W. Bush.)

“He was a tough cookie,” Trump said, of Truman. “Today, I’m going to be a much nicer president.”

Trump tried a few other one-liners, including a joke about a lot “strange birds” visiting the White House and the “bright future” ahead for Drumstick, unlike his turkey buddies. One quip that didn’t quite land, maybe because it was a little too on the nose: A joke that Trump would undo last year’s turkey pardons simply because Obama did it.

“As many of you know, I’ve been very active in overturning a number of executive actions by my predecessor,” Trump said. "However, I have been informed by the White House Counsel's office that Tater and Tot’s pardons cannot under any circumstances be revoked. So we’re not going to revoke them.”

(Most turkeys die within a year of their pardon, but Tater and Tot are still alive and accepting visitors at Virginia Tech.)

Trump thanked the military and law enforcement and added some additional Thanksgiving wishes before deciding Drumstick was thinking: “Enough talk, please pardon us.”

Trump walked to where Drumstick stood atop a harvest-themed bouquet and, very calmly, waited for his star moment.

“I feel so good about myself doing this,” Trump said as he stroked the turkey. Then, he finally declared: “Drumstick, you are hereby pardoned.”

Overall, the event concluded more successfully than the last time Trump came face-to-face with a large bird, as Vox’s Tara Golshan noted. But a pardoning ceremony can be a bit of an awkward affair when your campaign is under federal investigation: