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April 18, 2018

Rep. Schiff Introduces Legislation to Prevent Abuse of Presidential Pardons

Washington, DC – Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced the Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act, legislation to prevent this President or any other from abusing the pardon power for their own personal benefit or to obstruct justice. The legislation would require that if the President pardons someone in connection with an investigation in which the President or one of his family members is a target, subject, or witness, the evidence against recipient of the pardon would be provided by the Department of Justice to Congress.  

“President Trump already has signaled that he is willing to use his constitutional powers in order to protect those who remain loyal to him, even if they are convicted of obstruction or perjury,” said Rep. Schiff. “By pardoning Scooter Libby last week, Trump has sent a clear and unmistakable message to potential witnesses against him or members of his family that: ‘if you have my back, I’ll have yours.’ 

At a time of constitutional peril, it is incumbent on the Congress to stand up for the rule of law by creating a strong disincentive to the President issuing pardons to protect himself and obstruct ongoing investigations.”


There are unsettling indications that President Trump could use the expansive pardon power granted by the Constitution as an instrument to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation and other investigations into his business, family or his associates. In March, the New York Times reported that the President’s attorney, John Dowd, had floated the possibility of a presidential pardon to attorneys for Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort last year. Already, President pardoned Scooter Libby, a Bush Administration official who was convicted in 2007 of obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI. Trump has also pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a political ally convicted of contempt for discriminatory police practices.

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution provides that presidents "shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” This legislation, if signed into law, would create a powerful disincentive for any president who seeks to use the pardon power as an instrument of obstruction in an ongoing investigation. It would grant Congress the power to conduct rigorous oversight, in a way that does not unduly burden the president’s inherent constitutional powers.

The Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act complements other proposals to prevent President Trump from interfering with the work of the Special Counsel, including the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act. The text of the bill is below:

SEC 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act”.

SEC. 2. Congressional oversight relating to certain pardons.

(a) Submission of information.—In the event that the President grants an individual a pardon for an offense against the United States that arises from an investigation in which the President, or a relative of the President, is a target, subject, or witness, not later than 30 days after the date of such pardon, the Attorney General shall submit to the chairmen and ranking members of the appropriate congressional committees all materials of an investigation that were obtained by a United States Attorney, another Federal prosecutor, or an investigative authority of the Federal Government, relating to the offense for which the individual is so pardoned.

(b) Treatment of information.—Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure may not be construed to prohibit the disclosure of information required by subsection (a) of this section.

(c) Applicability.—Subsection (a) shall apply with respect to a pardon granted by the President on or after January 20, 2017.

(d) Definitions.—In this section:

(1) The term “appropriate congressional committees” means—

(A)  the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives and the Committee on the Judiciary of the Senate; and

(B) if an investigation relates to intelligence or counterintelligence matters, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives and the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate.

(2) The term “pardon” includes a commutation of sentence.                        

(3) The term “relative” has the meaning given that term in section 3110(a) of title 5, United States Code.