It is time to consider whether the POTUS power of the pardon is too broad, and, therefore, should be considered for reform.
The constitution provides that:
The President … shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of impeachment.
It has the wonderful power of forgiveness at the state level. The government of any free country should retain the right to pardon for principled reasons.
However, it seems like every lame duck session for a president draws complaints about how this power is used. Modern examples include:
- The pardon of President Richard Nixon by his former Vice President Gerald Ford.
- President H.W. Bush’s pardon of individuals connected with the Iran Contra affair.
- President Clinton’s pardon of his brother Roger.
- President Clinton’s pardon of billionaire Marc Rich.
Most recently, President Trump’s pardons of his allies Roger Stone, Paul Mannafort and Michael Flynn.
It seems that between these lame duck sessions, we all forget about the controversies. Let’s work together and call for a thoughtful debate about how the pardon power should be used and how it should not be used.
- Should a president be able to tell someone… go ahead and break the law and I will pardon you? They could today, so long as they avoid impeachment. In August 2020, a former DHS employee said that President Trump told border agents to do “whatever it takes on the border”. If they get in trouble. He would pardon them. Is that an appropriate use of pardons, if it is true?
- Should the president be able to break the law, get caught and have his vice president pardon him? That could put the POTUS above the federal laws of the United States. It was very controversial when President Ford did it for President Nixon.
- Is it necessary to list the specific crimes and acts that the pardon applies to? It feels like they should have to do that. However, we have seen more blanket pardons for whatever may have been done at any time.
- Should an explanation of the principled reasons that the president is overruling the justice system be attached to the pardon? That would seem reasonable.
- Should you be able to pardon yourself? That would definitely put the president above the federal laws of the US. Legal experts are split on whether this is constitutional.
You probably have many other questions. Let’s get them on the table.
It is notable that the most controversial pardons tend to come in a president’s lame duck session, where the public’s approval is not as valuable to the POTUS.
Join me in calling for a national debate long before another lame duck session. Then, let’s work with lawmakers to draft and approve the constitutional amendment that would be required.
Just my opinion. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
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