The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) is proposing new legislation that would automatically prompt an investigation into any pardons made by President Donald Trump if they pertained to Russia, his 2016 campaign, and other matters under investigation.
“Presidents can use a pardon to rectify an injustice. They may not use it to obstruct justice,” Schiff wrote in a tweet discussing the issue.
The legislation would “ensure that if the pardon power is abused to coverup crimes involving any President, his/her family or associates, Congress finds out,” Schiff added, with images of the bill included in his tweet.
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
The bill, if it were to be passed into law, would require the Department of Justice hand over any relevant documents relating to the questionable pardon.
“In the event that the President grants an individual a pardon for an offense against the United States that arises from an investigation in which the President, or any relative of the president, is a target, subject, or witness…the Attorney General shall submit to the chairmen and ranking members of the appropriate congressional committees all materials of an investigation…relating to the offense for which the individual is so pardoned,” the bill reads in part.
The pardoning power wielded by the president is indeed a very powerful tool, one that doesn’t have much of a “check” on it from either of the two other branches of government, according to the Constitution.
But scholars and pundits disagree on whether the presidential pardoning power is absolute. A pardon of an individual to impede an investigation, for example, would be a misuse of the power, one that could amount to obstruction of justice charges being levied against the president were he to do so.
In any event, it’s not likely that Schiff’s bill is going to become law. It would likely pass the House, but could face fierce opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate. Even if it passes there, the president himself could veto the bill.