Congressman Cohen Introduces Constitutional Amendment to Reform Presidential Pardon Power

January 3, 2021
Press Release
Addresses ongoing abuse, limits clemency to prevent conflicts of interest

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), the Chairman of House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, today introduced a Constitutional Amendment to reform the Presidential pardon power to address ongoing abuses and prevent its future use to advance conflicts of interest. The Congressman introduced the measure on the first day of the new, 117th Congress to call attention to its importance. 

Congressman Cohen has previously introduced joint resolutions to reform the pardon power. The Judiciary Committee and his Subcommittee have jurisdiction over such matters. 

Congressman Cohen made the following statement: 

“It is unfortunately well past time to amend the United States Constitution to make explicit a ban on self-dealing pardons.  The framers of Constitution included the pardon provisions as a safety valve against injustice, not as the means for a President to put himself, his family, and his associates above the law.  Throughout his term in office, President Trump has used the power of the presidency to benefit himself, his family, and his friends. He has shamelessly and corruptly shielded himself from the consequences of his own and others’ misconduct.  Over the next few days, I expect him to continue this pattern of abuse.  Our democracy has shown great resilience over the past four years, but also has endured serious assaults on our system of government committed to the rule of law. 

“This constitutional amendment would limit the President’s pardon power to grant a pardon or clemency to himself, his family, his administration officials, or his campaign advisors.  It would also prevent pardons for conduct undertaken for a direct and significant personal benefit of the President, the President’s family, or Administration officials, and for crimes committed in cooperation with the President.  Finally, it ensures that pardons issued for a corrupt purpose are invalid. Donald Trump has demonstrated that the broad nature of the pardon power makes it ripe for abuse. Passing this joint resolution would remove that threat, now and in the future.”