Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is reportedly near its conclusion, President Donald Trump and many of his current and former associates remain in serious legal jeopardy — and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) wants to ensure that no one involved in criminal activity can avoid legal accountability for their actions via a presidential pardon. To that end, this Thursday he reintroduced legislation called the Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act, which would give Congress extra explicit oversight of any situations in which the president sought to clear the record of someone involved in an investigation including him or his interests.
‘The President has a broad authority 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.’
Presidents can use a pardon to rectify an injustice. They may not use it to obstruct justice.
I just introduced legislation to ensure that if the pardon power is abused to coverup crimes involving any President, his/her family or associates, Congress finds out: pic.twitter.com/RQ3HjWOZhi
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) March 7, 2019
He first introduced the legislation last year, and its current incarnation thereby amounts to a reintroduction. If it passes, Congress would receive whatever evidence may have been collected against the pardon beneficiary.
The effort has a greater chance of proving successful in the House this time around since the Democrats are now in the majority — and they’ve proven their readiness to exercise close oversight of the Trump team again and again. Just in recent days, the House Judiciary Committee under the leadership of Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) announced a massive, sweeping probe into possible obstruction of justice, kickstarted by document requests targeting a full 81 people and entities connected to the president in some capacity. Strikingly, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York and Mueller’s team both reportedly signed off on the effort.
More specifically, in recent days, the story of a previously possible pardon for former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has emerged. After months and even years worth of rumors about possible presidential pardons for individuals caught up in the Russia scandal, the Wall Street Journal reported that last year, Cohen had directed his previous legal team to explore the possibility of a pardon from the president with Trump’s legal team, who he’d previously been involved in a joint defense agreement with. Suspiciously, ABC reports that at least some of those discussions were sparked by two lawyers getting in touch with Cohen who claimed to have access to a presidential pardon for the now former lawyer if he stuck with the Trump side — although wildly enough, it’s unclear what connection they actually had with the Trump legal team, no matter their alleged claims to be associates of presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Cohen claimed to have never “asked for” a pardon from the president in recent public Congressional testimony in which he lambasted his former employer as a “racist, a conman, and a cheat.”
No matter the exact specifics of that situation, it’s not the first time the possibility of presidential pardons targeting the Russia investigation has come up. In 2017, the president’s legal team reportedly also consulted with lawyers for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn about the possibility. Neither have received a pardon, but both have either pleaded guilty to or been declared guilty of federal crimes in the time since.
In other words, the president’s attempts at obstruction of justice aren’t working.
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