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

Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseOvernight Energy: 5 takeaways from the Colonial Pipeline attack | Colonial aims to 'substantially' restore pipeline operations by end of week | Three questions about Biden's conservation goals Hillicon Valley: Colonial Pipeline attack underscores US energy's vulnerabilities | Biden leading 'whole-of-government' response to hack | Attorneys general urge Facebook to scrap Instagram for kids Utah county GOP censures Romney over Trump impeachment vote MORE (R-Neb.) on Wednesday blasted President TrumpDonald TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE’s latest pardons of political allies such as former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortThere was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder Treasury: Manafort associate passed 'sensitive' campaign data to Russian intelligence Hunter Biden blasts Trump in new book: 'A vile man with a vile mission' MORE and political adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneThe FBI should turn off the FARA faucet Michael Cohen on Giuliani's legal fees: He won't get 'two cents' from Trump Cohen on Giuliani: 'Chickens coming home to roost' 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 KushnerNew Kushner group aims to promote relations between Arab states, Israel Republicans request documents on Kerry's security clearance process Iran moves closer to a diplomatic breakthrough that may upset Israel 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 ChristieSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as White House continues to push vaccination effort NJ governor's approval rating slips to 57 percent: poll Never underestimate Joe Biden MORE, who prosecuted Charles Kushner at the time, said his crimes were among the most “loathsome” he had dealt with.   

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDNC plans to project image calling GOP 'party of Trump' on his DC hotel after Cheney vote Democrats fundraise off of vote to remove Cheney from GOP leadership Free Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech 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 CollinsMasks shed at White House; McConnell: 'Free at last' Senate GOP dismayed by vote to boot Cheney The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Cheney poised to be ousted; Biden to host big meeting 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 ToomeySasse rebuked by Nebraska Republican Party over impeachment vote Philly GOP commissioner on censures: 'I would suggest they censure Republican elected officials who are lying' Toomey censured by several Pennsylvania county GOP committees over impeachment vote 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.