Note: this piece was originally published in Morning Consult, and was written by Checks & Balances member Paul Rosenzweig.
Remember when President Donald Trump pardoned Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone (among others)? This naked use of presidential power transgressed almost every norm of executive behavior. Before it happens again, the problem needs to be fixed. In his misuse of the pardon power, Trump has provided a clear case-study for why congressional action is needed.
House Democrats recently introduced the Protecting Our Democracy Act, a substantial reform package aimed squarely at constructing institutional checks on the post- Trump presidency. Transparency and accountability are its two guiding principles. It includes provisions that tackle everything from increasing presidential transparency by enhancing emoluments statutes to demanding greater accountability via stronger guidelines on congressional subpoena enforcement and the presidential transition processes. And it reforms the use of the pardon power.
I have previously written about Trump’s alleged penchant for offering pardons in exchange for potential criminal conduct on his behalf. After his 2020 election defeat, he took this practice to a new level, issuing dozens of pardons in a mad dash through his final days in office. Though last-minute commutations and pardons are a common practice for outgoing presidents, Trump’s extravagance was yet another example of turning an ordinary presidential power on its head.
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