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GOP senator on Trump pardons: 'This is rotten to the core'

Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseJuan Williams: Let America be America Kremlin: US statements about pro-Navalny protests show 'direct support for the violation of the law' Senators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Neb.) on Wednesday blasted President TrumpDonald TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency MORE’s latest pardons of political allies such as former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortWould Trump have gotten away with a self-pardon? History will never know Trump's pardons harshly criticized by legal experts Presidential pardons need to go MORE and political adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneWould Trump have gotten away with a self-pardon? History will never know Trump's pardons harshly criticized by legal experts Presidential pardons need to go MORE as “rotten to the core.”

Sasse issued his statement Wednesday evening, specifically mentioning Manafort and Stone.

“This is rotten to the core,” he said in a terse one-liner.

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The statement by Sasse said that “felons like Manafort and Stone” had “flagrantly and repeatedly violated the law and harmed Americans.”

Sasse was the first GOP senator out of the gate to criticize the pardons. Others are likely to follow.

Trump also pardoned Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerJilani: China 'sending clear message' to Biden officials with sanctions that opposition could lead to 'future pay cut' Would Trump have gotten away with a self-pardon? History will never know Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon MORE. The elder Kushner pleaded guilty in 2004 of 16 counts of tax evasion and retaliating against a witness. He served two years in prison.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris ChristieChris ChristieHouse formally sends impeachment to Senate, putting Trump on trial for Capitol riot Bon Jovi dismisses talk of running for office: 'Hell no' Christie: Republicans claiming election was stolen trying to score 'political points' with those Trump 'lied to' MORE, who prosecuted Charles Kushner at the time, said his crimes were among the most “loathsome” he had dealt with.   

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffGlenn Greenwald warns against media censorship amid concerns over domestic terrorism Biden to keep Wray as FBI director Biden urged to reverse Pompeo-Trump move on Houthis MORE (D-Calif.), the lead Democratic prosecutor during Trump’s impeachment trial, called Manafort’s pardon particularly outrageous.

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“During the Mueller investigation, Trump’s lawyer floated a pardon to Manafort. Manafort withdrew his cooperation with prosecutors, lied, was convicted, and then Trump praised him for not ‘ratting.’ Trump’s pardon now completes the corrupt scheme. Lawless until the bitter end,” Schiff tweeted Wednesday.

Several Senate Republicans urged Trump to avoid sparking a scandal over pardons.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins: Minimum wage increase should be separate from COVID-19 relief package The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Focus on vaccine, virus, travel Moderates vow to 'be a force' under Biden MORE (R-Maine) earlier this month advised that Trump follow the recommendations of the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney.

“In general, I think presidents ought to take the advice of the pardon office that is within the Department of Justice,” she said. “But the president’s pardon authority is very broad.”

Sen. Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyGovernment used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Appeals court rules NSA's bulk phone data collection illegal Dunford withdraws from consideration to chair coronavirus oversight panel MORE (R-Pa.), who is retiring from Congress at the end of 2022, said, “I think pardons should be used very judiciously.”

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Trump’s controversial pardons are likely to spark further debate about whether the president’s broad constitutional power over federal sentences needs to be reexamined.

Paul Rosenzweig, who served as a prosecutor during the Whitewater investigation into former President Clinton, wrote in The Atlantic on Wednesday that one of the nation’s founding fathers, George Mason, foresaw the possibility that future presidents could use pardons to help political allies or accomplices.

Mason argued the president “ought not to have the power of pardoning, because he may frequently pardon crimes which were advised by himself.”

“It may happen, at some future day, that he will establish a monarchy, and destroy the republic. If he has the power of granting pardons before indictment, or conviction, may be not stop inquiry and prevent detection?” he wrote.