Romney: Founders didn't intend pardons to be used for 'cronies'

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyPelosi: 'No intention' of abandoning Democrats' infrastructure goals What the Democrats should be doing to reach true bipartisanship Eugene Goodman to throw out first pitch at Nationals game MORE (R-Utah) on Wednesday called for reforming the use of the president’s pardon power after former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden prepares to confront Putin Biden aims to bolster troubled Turkey ties in first Erdoğan meeting Senate investigation of insurrection falls short MORE granted clemency to 143 individuals as his final act of office, including Stephen Bannon, his former strategist, who was charged with defrauding donors.

"I can't imagine the founders in providing for pardon power for a president anticipated that presidents would use it to reward political friends, and as a result I would hope that we could develop a tradition of more narrowly providing pardons," Romney said.

Romney said there should be a tradition of “not providing them to people who are cronies or political individuals.”


Romney said he “would love to see a constitutional remedy” even though he acknowledged “it’s unlikely that something like that can get passed just given the difficult process of passing a constitutional amendment.”

Senators say the president’s pardon power is broad because of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states the president “shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” 

Trump late on Tuesday also pardoned Elliott Broidy, one of his top fundraisers in 2016, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to violate foreign lobbying laws, as well as former Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2013 for racketeering, money laundering and charges connected to a land swap deal.

He also pardoned former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.), who served an eight-year prison sentence for receiving bribes.  

Phillip Halpern, the former assistant U.S. district attorney who prosecuted Cunningham, told The San Diego Union-Tribune that he was “appalled” by the decision.