Merkley Leads Colleagues in Legislative Push to Bring Transparency to Presidential Pardons

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley teamed up with U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) today to introduce the Presidential Pardon Transparency Act of 2021—legislation that would require all current and future presidents to provide the American people with critical information about any and all pardons they issue. The legislation was also introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-8) in January.

“Our founding fathers included the presidential pardon in our constitution to provide a check on the judicial branch of our government—not to provide a ‘get out of jail free card’ to corrupt cronies,” said Merkley. “Presidents have a responsibility to serve and be accountable to the American people, and that means the people deserve to know when and how a pardon is issued. Any friend of strengthening our democratic republic should support this commonsense requirement.”

“The pardon is one of the president’s greatest powers,” Wyden said. “Unfortunately, Donald Trump showed on his way out of office how the presidential pardon is also ripe for abuse and political manipulation—letting corrupt buddies of a crooked president walk away without consequence. With this powerful pardon responsibility, Americans always deserve the utmost transparency from their president.”  

“This bill would directly address the kind of rotten, political cronyism we saw pervade the pardon process at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency. The pardon power isn’t a political weapon or a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for friends. This bill ensures transparency in the pardon process, codifying a strong deterrent against the president corrupting the pardon power to protect himself or his allies,” said Blumenthal.

“Donald Trump has made it clear over the last four years the various ways the pardon power can be abused: pardoning friends, associates, and political allies and using the prospect of a pardon to get co-conspirators to keep their silence, chief among them,” Hirono said. “The Presidential Pardon Transparency Act will make sure future presidents cannot hide their abuses by requiring that all presidential pardons be publicly disclosed. Transparency is essential to our democracy. We must swiftly work to pass this legislation so no future president can issue secret pardons.”

Specifically, the legislation would ensure that no later than three days after a pardon is issued, the Attorney General of the United States would publish in the Federal Register and on the official website of the President the name of the person pardoned, the date the pardon was issued, and the full text of the reprieve or pardon.

Merkley has long championed the reforms necessary to stand up to the powerful and privileged who have corrupted our government and bring accountability back to Washington. Last month, Merkley joined Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar in announcing that the new Senate majority’s top legislative priority, S1, will be the For the People Act, which would tackle dark money, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and more.