Chairman Nadler Statement in Support of Raskin Amendment to H.R. 7694, the Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act

July 23, 2020
Press Release

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following remarks in support of Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD)'s amendment to H.R. 7694, the Abuse of the Pardon Prevention Act:

"I strongly support the Raskin amendment, which makes explicit that a President has no authority to pardon himself for his own crimes.

"The Constitution itself would appear to cover this.  Article II, Section 3 requires the President to 'take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed'—an obligation that is incompatible with the President pardoning himself and thus placing himself beyond the reach of those very laws.  The President’s constitutional oath to 'faithfully execute [his] Office' also prohibits this kind of naked self-dealing.

"All four witnesses who testified in this Committee’s hearing on the pardon power last year—including the witness invited by my Republican colleagues—agreed that self-pardons are incompatible with the Constitution.

"The Justice Department previously embraced this view as well.  In an opinion issued just days before President Richard Nixon resigned from office, DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel advised that President Nixon could not pardon himself, based on 'the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case.'

"Unsurprisingly, President Trump alone seems to disagree.  In fact, he has claimed an 'absolute right' to pardon himself.  And, if his prior use of the pardon power is any indication of how he may use it in the future, we have little choice but to take him at his word.

"So it is all the more important that we in Congress exercise our own constitutional responsibility to speak clearly on this issue and reaffirm that the effect of any self-pardon will be null and void.

"There are, of course, limits on Congress’s authority to restrict the President’s abuse of the pardon power.  Courts have interpreted the pardon power broadly.  But the issue of a self-pardon is unique and is fundamentally at odds with all notions of justice.

"Although the legal community is virtually unanimous in its opinion that the President may not issue a self-pardon, the one person with the power to do so has not gotten the message.  It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to make this point explicit.

"By speaking firmly on this issue, we may deter this or any future President from attempting such an unprecedented move.  And, should the issue ever reach the courts, judges and Justices will have the benefit of our views as well.

"As with other aspects of this bill, it is unfortunate that it has become necessary for us to make explicit these basic principles of fairness and common sense.  Any president who commits a crime and then pardons himself for it would display open hostility to our Nation’s system of laws.  Such blatant corruption and self-dealing cannot be tolerated in a constitutional democracy.

"Mr. Raskin’s amendment is a thoughtful, commonsense, good-government measure that all of us should be able to support.  I strongly urge the Committee to adopt it."

###