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Pardon, commutation rules can only change through constitutional amendment

Furious with President Trump's decision to commute Roger Stone's sentence on charges stemming from an investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, Democrats want to weaken a president's power to commute sentences and issue pardons. A commutation lessens a defendant's sentence. A pardon vacates a defendant's conviction.

In 2019, Stone was convicted on various charges, including obstruction of justice. Judge Amy Jackson sentenced Stone to serve 40 months in prison. On July 10, 2020, Trump commuted Stone's sentence to no prison time.

Article II of the U.S. Constitution gives the President the "power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except for impeachment." He does not need permission from anybody and does not have to explain himself. He can write his order on a paper bag.

By passing restrictive statutes, Democrats hope to curb future commutations and pardons by burdening a president with reporting requirements and a duty to deliver to Congress all documents related to any commutations and pardons. Such statutory requirements would undercut Article II. Democrats should stop grandstanding and pursue a constitutional amendment.

Mark Shea




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