Democrat Steve Cohen, who represents Memphis in the U.S. House, wants Congress to take steps to limit the presidential pardoning authority.
Cohen introduced a constitutional amendment after it was revealed that two Trump campaign aides would face indictment in the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Speaking on the House floor, Cohen explained why the amendment is important.
“It’s not supposed to be a way for presidents to put themselves, their families, and members of their administration and their campaign team above the law, to obstruct justice if there is an investigation of wrongdoing,” Cohen said. “Unless we change the Constitution, this is how it can be used and may be used.”
Under his proposed amendment, presidents would be kept from pardoning themselves, their families, members of their administration or people who worked on their campaign. In July, Rep. Al Green, a democrat from Texas, introduced an amendment to the Constitution to prevent the president from pardoning himself.
In order for an amendment to be added to the Constitution, two-thirds of the House and Senate must approve the proposal, and three-.fourths of the states must affirm the proposed amendment. Cohen said it’s important to remember that the pardon power was something copied from the power that the British monarchy had as the country seceded.
“The pardon power is a vestige from a day gone by,” he said. “It’s not something that we should have complete and total ability of the president to use to pardon whomever and whatever he pleases and to obstruct justice. ”
Cohen said this is not an amendment targeted at Donald Trump, pointing out that he objected to the pardon of President Bill Clinton’s brother.
In 1977, he proposed changing the pardon power in Tennessee.
Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States limiting the pardon power of the president. Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled (two-thirds of each House concurring therein), that the following article is proposed as an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years after the date of its submission for ratification:
“The president shall not have the power to grant pardons and reprieves to himself or herself, to the president’s brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, spouse, parent, child, or grandchild or to the spouse of the president’s grandchild, to the president’s aunt, uncle, nephew or niece or to the spouse of the president’s nephew or niece, or to the president’s first or second cousin, the spouse of the president’s first or second cousin, the president’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law, or to any current or former member of the president’s administration, or to anyone who worked on the president’s presidential campaign as a paid employee.”