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

Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseSinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform Democrats outraged after Manchin opposes Biden spending bill Senate confirms Rahm Emanuel to be ambassador to Japan MORE (R-Neb.) on Wednesday blasted President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE’s latest pardons of political allies such as former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortManafort book set for August publication Accused spy's lawyers say plans to leave country were over Trump, not arrest Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE and political adviser Roger StoneRoger Jason StoneDemocrats differ over how Biden should handle Jan. 6 anniversary Alex Jones suing Pelosi and Jan. 6 panel, planning to plead the Fifth Photos of the Week: Tornado aftermath, Medal of Honor and soaring superheroes 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 KushnerKushner investment firm raises more than B: report Trump: Netanyahu 'never wanted peace' with Palestinians Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah 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 ChristieSome in GOP begin testing party's lockstep loyalty to Trump The 10 Republicans most likely to run for president Chris Christie tries again MORE, who prosecuted Charles Kushner at the time, said his crimes were among the most “loathsome” he had dealt with.   

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Democrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Overnight Health Care — Insurance will soon cover COVID-19 tests 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 CollinsVoting rights, Trump's Big Lie, and Republicans' problem with minorities More than 30 million families to lose child tax credit checks starting this weekend Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform 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 ToomeyMeet Washington's most ineffective senator: Joe Manchin Black women look to build upon gains in coming elections Watch live: GOP senators present new infrastructure proposal 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.