House Democrats target Trump’s clemency power after Stone is switched

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The House Judiciary Committee debated on Thursday two bills that are unlikely to become law, but mark Democrats’ efforts to push back what they accuse of Trump’s corrupt use of his pardon power for Stone.

One of the bills, drafted by House of Intelligence Speaker Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, would make it a crime for pardons to be issued in exchange for something of value, such as a violation of corruption laws . Schiff’s bill would also require evidence to be turned over to Congress if a president uses pardoning powers in cases involving the president or a president’s family, or if congressional obstruction.

The second bill, from House Judiciary Speaker Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, would suspend the federal offenses statute of limitations for a sitting president – a response to the Justice Department’s legal opinion that a sitting president cannot be charged.

Democrats also plan to propose an amendment to Schiff’s bill from Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, which states that presidents do not have the capacity to issue self-pardons.

“We’ve never had a president’s attempt to forgive himself, and no president has ever come close to this point, but with Donald Trump anything is possible, and we want to make it absolutely clear that our understanding of the Constitution is that it does not include the possibility of the president forgiving himself, ”Raskin said in an interview.

Of course, the two bills have virtually no chance of being passed by the Republican-led Senate, let alone Trump signing them. And the measures would surely face legal challenges under the argument that Congress lacks the power to restrict the president’s constitutional pardon powers.

Nonetheless, the legislation was debated Thursday by the Judiciary Committee in response to Trump’s switching of Stone, who was found guilty of seven counts – including lying to Congress and tampering with witnesses – as part of the former special advocate Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Democrats decried Stone’s leniency as an abuse of power, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to respond with legislation, saying Congress “will take action to prevent this type of brazen wrongdoing.” .

“People should know, it’s not just about lying to Congress. It means lying to the American people, tampering with witnesses and the like, it’s about our national security, ”Pelosi said on CNN’s“ State of the Union ”earlier this month.

Trump argued that Stone’s prosecution was politically motivated. He tweeted after issuing the switch that Stone was “the target of an illegal witch hunt that should never have happened.”

Republican House leaders backed Trump’s move, and Republicans on Thursday proposed amendments pushing back Democrats’ legislation, such as including vice-presidents in statute-suspending legislation – an implicit attack on the law. Trump’s 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I think the president has done the right thing, and he has the right to do it,” parliamentary minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, said last week.

Ohio Representative Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, accused Democrats of “wasting the committee’s critical working days to take political punches against the president.”

“I don’t know what imaginary crimes this bill would address and I’m not sure Democrats know either. But they’re convinced there’s something out there, if they just keep looking hard enough, ”Jordan said.

Last year, Schiff introduced his legislation requiring evidence to be turned over to Congress as a pardon when the case involved a president or family members. Since Stone’s switching, he has worked with the House Judiciary Committee to update the bill that would also make pardons in return for something of value violating corruption laws.

“The president has the constitutional power to confer pardons and commutations, but that power is not unlimited and has been provided to remedy injustices, not to cover a president or protect him from possible criminal liability,” said Schiff in a statement.

In addition to switching Stone, Nadler’s bill targets a long-standing frustration Democrats have expressed over the Mueller report and other federal inquiries involving the president: The special advocate never considered d ‘accuse Trump of obstructing justice because of the opinion of the Department of Justice’s legal counsel’s office. that sitting presidents cannot be charged.

“There is a need… to simply suspend the statute of limitations so that the president – any president – can be held accountable for his actions and ensure that the presidency is not a free card release,” said Nadler.

Raskin’s Amendment would codify a 1974 Office of the Legal Advisor’s opinion, issued a few days before President Richard Nixon’s resignation, which states: “By virtue of the fundamental rule that no one can be a judge in his or her own case, the president can not forgive himself. ”

Trump argued differently. “As many jurists have said, I have the absolute right to FORGIVE myself, but why would I do it when I haven’t done anything wrong? Trump tweeted in June 2018, while the Mueller investigation was still ongoing.

This story was updated with additional developments on Thursday.

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