December 01, 2020

Cortez Masto, Hirono, Blumenthal Call for Transparency and Accountability for President Trump’s Use of Pardon Power

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act of 2020 to provide transparency and accountability for presidential exercise of the pardon power. The legislation allows Congress and the Inspector General of the Department of Justice to assess whether a conflict of interest or any other impropriety surrounds a pardon that directly involves the President or the President’s family. Introduction of this bill comes on the heels of President Trump’s decision to pardon his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn. 

“Throughout his presidency, President Trump has shown his willingness to use his constitutional power to grant pardons to his allies in order to obstruct justice,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “The American people deserve to know whether a president is really working on their behalf or just trying to protect himself and his cronies. This legislation would ensure that if a president is using his pardon power for corrupt purposes, Congress and the American people will know about it, and that pardons offered as bribes in return for favors and loyalty will not be tolerated. It also makes clear that nobody in America is above the law by establishing that a president cannot pardon himself for his own crimes. These reforms are vital to protect against abuses in the highest office in the land.” 

“President Trump has abused his power for the benefit of himself, his family, and his friends,” said Senator Hirono. “We need to restore public trust and integrity in the office of the president. Americans should know if a president is misusing their pardon power to cover up their own crimes or protect family members. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that President Trump and his allies are not above the rule of law by allowing for investigations on the corrupt uses of the pardon power and providing critical clarity that a president cannot pardon themselves for their own crimes. Lawlessness in the presidency has no place in America, and I urge the Senate to swiftly pass this legislation.”

“This bill would directly address the kind of rotten, political cronyism that was on full display last week when President Trump pardoned Michael Flynn,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Last week’s pardon stinks of corruption – President Trump making good on the “Get Out of Jail Free” card he dangled in front of Flynn right before Flynn stopped working with federal investigators. The pardon power isn’t a political weapon or a license to obstruct justice. This bill ensures transparency in the pardon process, codifying a strong deterrent against the president weaponizing the pardon power to protect himself or his allies.” 

Senators Cortez Masto, Hirono, and Blumenthal were joined in introducing the Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act of 2020 by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).  

Legislative text of the bill can be found HERE. 


The Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act of 2020 would require the White House and the Department of Justice to turn over evidence related to the pardon to appropriate congressional committees and the Inspector General of the Department of Justice. The bill would apply to pardons made in connection with an investigation in which the President or one of the President’s family members is a target, subject, or witness; to certain offenses related to congressional proceedings or investigations; or to offenses related to refusing to testify or produce documents to Congress. The bill establishes that abuse of the pardon power can be a criminal offense under the federal anti-bribery statute, and it makes clear that the president may not pardon him or herself.