President Donald Trump on Tuesday pardoned a turkey named Drumstick and jokingly bemoaned that his lawyers wouldn’t let him overturn the clemency former President Barack Obama granted to a pair of birds named Tater and Tot ahead of Thanksgiving last year.
“As many of you know I have been very active in overturning a number of actions” by his predecessor, Trump said in the White House Rose Garden. “I have been informed by the White House counsel’s office that Tater and Tot’s pardons cannot under any circumstances be revoked. So Tater and Tot, you can rest easy.”
This year’s lucky birds, Drumstick and a second turkey named Wishbone, were brought to the White House by a Minnesota farmer, Carl Wittenburg, who chairs the National Turkey Federation. It’s the 70th year that the trade group has presented the U.S. president with a turkey to mark the Thanksgiving holiday.
Not all those birds were as lucky as Wishbone and Drumstick, whose names were selected by a White House social media poll.
The annual pardoning ceremony only began in 1989 under President George H.W. Bush, though earlier presidents occasionally said they planned to spare the animals they were presented. Some historians point to President Abraham Lincoln’s decision to free a Christmas bird that his son had grown fond of as the first presidential turkey pardoning.
Before arriving at the White House, Wishbone and Drumstick spent the night in a suite at the Willard InterContinental near the White House. Turkeys in the “presidential flock” also receive media training to acclimate them to television lights and crowd noises.
Following a short speech in which he thanked service members, police and emergency workers, Trump walked over to a table on which Drumstick had been placed.
“36 pounds! Are you ready, Drumstick?” he remarked, before asking if he could touch the bird. An assistant nodded yes. “Drumstick, you are hereby pardoned,” he said.
After the ceremony, the turkeys will travel to Virginia Tech university in Blacksburg, Virginia, where they’ll join Tater and Tot at the poultry science department’s livestock judging pavilion, known as “Gobbler’s Rest.”