Congressman Cohen Presides at Hearing on Abuse of the Presidential Pardon Power

February 9, 2021
Press Release
Examines urgent need to grant clemency to correct injustice while avoiding potential misuse for corrupt intent

MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, today presided over a hearing on “The Constitutional Means to Prevent Abuse of the Clemency Power.” As a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, Congressman Cohen has introduced joint resolutions in the current and previous Congresses to limit the pardon power outlined Article 2 of the Constitution.

In his opening remarks, Congressman Cohen said:

“There are few things more fiercely urgent than the need to grant clemency to the thousands who suffer from the burdens of excessive and unjust imprisonment or the collateral consequences stemming from their criminal convictions.  Perhaps not coincidentally, these burdens are disproportionately borne by people of color…

“It is my hope that President Biden will be a leading example of how the clemency power could be more effectively used, especially for those who may be more deserving, but whose pleas have not been heard…

“Questions about the proper scope of the clemency power took on greater urgency during the Trump presidency.  No President is permitted to abuse the powers of his office to obstruct a law enforcement investigation, yet the manner in which President Trump used the clemency power throughout his presidency raised the concern that he may have been willing to do just that to protect himself and his political allies.”

See Congressman Cohen’s complete opening remarks here and two exchanges with the hearing’s witnesses here and here.

Today’s witnesses included:

Caroline Frederickson, Distinguished Visitor from Practice at Georgetown University Law Center and a Senior Fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School; 

Karen Hobert Flynn, President of Common Cause since 2016; 

Josh Blackman, Professor of Law at the South Texas College of Law in Houston;  and

Timothy Naftali, Clinical Associate Professor of Public Service, Clinical Associate Professor of History, and director of the undergraduate Public Policy Major at New York University and the founding Director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.