As some of his final acts as president, Donald Trump pardoned 70 people and commuted the sentences of 74 others, and political allies like his ex-chief strategist Steve Bannon and former top Republican Party official Elliot Broidy were among the beneficiaries. Among the other crimes that other pardon and commutation recipients committed, Bannon was charged over a scheme defrauding Trump’s supporters who donated to a crowdfunding campaign for the southern border wall while Broidy was charged over violating rules surrounding lobbying for foreign interests. On Wednesday, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) suggested that reforming presidential pardon power could be appropriate.
Romney commented as follows:
‘I can’t imagine the founders in providing for pardon power for a president anticipated that presidents would use it to reward political friends, and as a result I would hope that we could develop a tradition of more narrowly providing pardons.’
The Senator added that a precedent should be established of “not providing [pardons] to people who are cronies or political individuals,” and he said that he “would love to see a constitutional remedy” while acknowledging that “it’s unlikely that something like that can get passed just given the difficult process of passing a constitutional amendment.” The last time that a Constitutional amendment was formally enacted was 1992, when the 27th Amendment went into effect, which prohibits changes in the salary of members of Congress from going into effect until the next round of U.S. House elections. In other words, Congresspeople are restricted from automatically applying salary changes to themselves.
Romney, of course, was frequently at odds with the Trump administration while the ex-president was in power. As for presidential pardon power, as he indicated, the Constitution itself provides for the measure in Article II, Section 2, which says that presidents “shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” Because of the Constitution’s role in presidential pardon power, reforming the process could be extra difficult. According to one ratification process option, amendments require the support of two-thirds of both chambers of Congress, and subsequently, three-fourths of the states must ratify the amendment in order for it to pass.