The President’s constitutional power to pardon (or to commute) is broad, but it is not absolute. Rather, it is limited by the text of the Constitution, including, for example, the Equal Protection Clause and the First Amendment, and, most relevant here, Article II’s Faithful Execution Clauses, which established legal constraints on the Executive similar to fiduciary duties. Based on centuries of English and American usage, the original public meaning of the Faithful Execution Clauses is that they limit the President’s power by requiring him to exercise that power in good faith in the public interest — not corruptly in his self-interest.

Our report applies this analysis to President Trump’s grant of clemency to Roger Stone. A jury convicted Stone of seven felony counts, including obstructing a congressional investigation and witness. The convictions stemmed from Stone’s efforts to impede Congress’s investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential elections, crimes that Stone carried out in order to protect President Trump. But just before Stone was due to surrender to federal custody, President Trump commuted Roger Stone’s criminal sentence, reducing the imposed sentence of 40 months in federal prison, two years of supervised release, and a $20,000 fine, to zero — eliminating Stone’s punishment entirely.

The evidence indicates that the President exercised his pardon power in his own personal self-interest, in violation of the Faithful Execution Clauses. As the sentencing judge, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, had explained in her closing remarks, Stone “was prosecuted for covering up for the president.” Our report—based in part on the scholarship of Professors Jed Handelsman Shugerman and Ethan Leib at Fordham Law School, on whose behalf we had sought to file an amicus brief—explains why the court should have scrutinized the purpose of the commutation order, and determined whether to declare it constitutionally invalid.

Read the report.

Read our letter urging the House Judiciary Committee to convene an impeachment inquiry to investigate whether to recommend articles of impeachment against President Trump for this abuse of power.


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