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

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyThe Memo: CPAC fires starting gun on 2024 Trump at CPAC foments 2022 GOP primary wars Democrats scramble to rescue minimum wage hike MORE (R-Utah) on Wednesday called for reforming the use of the president’s pardon power after former President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 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.