June 26, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressmen Ted W. Lieu (D-Los Angeles County) and Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) today denounced the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee after it voted along party lines to block the passage of H. Res. 928, their Resolution of Inquiry that would impose proper oversight of Donald Trump’s abuse of the pardon power. Following the committee hearing on the resolution, Pascrell and Lieu issued a joint statement:

“Donald Trump’s abuse of his pardon power continues to represent a danger to our constitutional foundations. In virtually no other domestic area is the President’s power so unrestrained. Individual pardons are not subject to judicial review, and so the executive holds life-and-death authority at the stroke of a pen. Based on his actions, this power has clearly enamored a man who once played an executive on the television. Through pardons, the law gets to be what the President says it is. By pardoning unrepentant felons and racists, as well as anyone famous enough to grab his ear, Donald Trump is abusing that power and contemplating terrifying further ignominies.

“In ordinary times, such acts alone might be considered impeachable offenses or at the least the focus of intense scrutiny. But 286 congressional Republicans have said nary a word. And today, congressional Republicans have chosen, yet again, to look the other way to rampant corruption in this administration. That corruption is eating away at the bedrocks of this republic that have been laid and repeatedly fortified, regardless of party, for 242 years. We do not accept it. We will continue to exercise every tool at our disposal to stop this debasement. This fight isn’t over.”


The Lieu/Pascrell Resolution of Inquiry directed the Attorney General Jeff Sessions to provide to the House of Representatives any documents, recordings, memos, records, or other communications relating to any pardon Donald Trump has issued or has considered issuing, including those potentially involving Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and anyone else including Trump’s family and himself.

Resolutions of Inquiry are one of the methods used by the House to obtain information from the executive branch. The House traditionally ‘‘requests’’ the President and ‘‘directs’’ the heads of executive departments to furnish information. The House Judiciary Committee has 14 legislative days from its introduction to consider the resolution. In this instance, the committee acted to take up the resolution for consideration. Had they not, either favorably or unfavorably, the resolution is sent to the House floor for consideration.

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S Constitution posits that the President “shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” This allows the President to free any American from federal criminal liability, as well as commute sentences or restore rights diminished by conviction. A pardon can cover past acts and be applied whether a person is under investigation, is on trial, has been convicted, or has long been out of prison. The power is not subject to judicial review.

Donald Trump’s exercise of the pardon power so far, and his ruminations of that power, constitute perhaps the most disturbing pattern of his presidency so far. Last August Trump pardoned the former sheriff of Arizona’s largest county, Joe Arpaio, following his conviction for imposing a reign of racial profiling terror against Latinos and for the systematic mistreatment of prisoners in his custody. In April, he pardoned Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, who was convicted in 2007 of perjury, lying to FBI agents, and obstruction of justice. And last week, he pardoned right wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza, a well-known race baiter convicted of a campaign finance felony. None of these individuals ever expressed responsibility or contrition – the bedrock requirement for previous administrations to even be considered the honor of a pardon.

Trump has mused about using his pardon power to absolve the legal liability his aides and his family members to block possible indictments. He has openly bragged about pardoning himself – an absurd proposition that would elevate the American presidency to the status of a monarch above all laws.

As Donald Trump has ramped up his abuse of the pardon power, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have been increasingly active in highlighting the dangers of Trump’s pardon measures and statements and demanding oversight hearings. This week, Committee Democrats sent a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn demanding information from McGahn on Trump’s pardons and the procedures the White House has gone through in making its pardon decisions. H.Res. 928 constitutes the next step in shining light on the urgency of the pardons issue and the threat Trump’s behavior poses.

Last week, Reps. Lieu and Pascrell authored an op-ed in USA Today on the subject last week.