Senate

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

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Wednesday blasted President Trump’s latest pardons of political allies such as former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and political adviser Roger Stone 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.

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 Kushner. 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 Christie, who prosecuted Charles Kushner at the time, said his crimes were among the most “loathsome” he had dealt with.   

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the lead Democratic prosecutor during Trump’s impeachment trial, called Manafort’s pardon particularly outrageous.

“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 Collins (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 Toomey (R-Pa.), who is retiring from Congress at the end of 2022, said, “I think pardons should be used very judiciously.”

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. 

Tags Adam Schiff Ben Sasse Bill Clinton Chris Christie Donald Trump Jared Kushner Pat Toomey Paul Manafort Roger Stone Susan Collins

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