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March 07, 2019

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 the recipient of the pardon would be provided to Congress by the Department of Justice.

“The President has a broad power to confer pardons, but not when they are designed to insulate himself, his family and his associates from criminal investigation. Such an abuse of the pardon power would amount to obstruction of justice and is not countenanced by the constitution,” Schiff said. “The Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act creates a powerful check against deploying pardons in cases involving the president or his immediate family by ensuring that any evidence gathered in such an investigation is provided to Congress. The rule of law requires that a president use the pardon power only for reasons separate from his own criminal exposure.”


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. The reintroduction comes one day before the President’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is scheduled to be sentenced by a federal judge in Virginia on charges brought by the Special Counsel’s Office. The New York Times reported last March that the President’s then-attorney, John Dowd, floated the possibility of a presidential pardon to attorneys for Paul Manafort, as well as former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

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 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, and deny the President the benefit they might seek to gain through abusing the power of the pardon.

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.