Steve Cohen

02/18/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/18/2020 16:44

Congressman Cohen: Trump Uses Pardons to Benefit the Rich and Powerful

WASHINGTON - Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, was alarmed by the President's use of the pardon power to favor celebrities, the rich, and the well-connected. Among the 11 people granted a pardon or commutation were former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, financier Michael Milken, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo, all whose convictions involve public corruption.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

'President Trump has it completely wrong. The presidential pardon power was designed to right inequities in the justice system, as all should be equal before the law. Instead, Trump has used the pardon power to benefit the wealthy, famous and politically connected. While 37.5 percent of the federal prison population is African American, Trump has offered only one commutation to a living African American, and that at the urging of Kim Kardashian. The other was to 72-years-dead heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, again at the suggestion of a celebrity, Sylvester Stallone. There are thousands of people in federal prisons today serving excessive sentences, to no avail. Those people didn't have high powered and expensive legal representation and they aren't famous or politically well-connected. In this Administration, the Department of Justice Pardon Attorney's recommendations have been replaced by Fox News talking heads and celebrity endorsements.

'Earlier this year, I wrote to President Trump - just as I had to President Obama -- and encouraged him to use the pardon power to make real reforms to our criminal justice system. But the President has chosen a different path, pardoning his political supporters and wealthy friends, while petitions from ordinary Americans languish. The presidential pardon power should be used for the benefit of our nation, to make wrongs right, not as a means to hand out political and personal favors.'

Congressman Cohen presided at a hearing of the Subcommittee on the presidential pardon power and its potential abuse last March. He also introduced a Constitutional Amendment on the opening day of this Congress to reign in who a president can pardon. The misuse of the pardon power remains a high priority for the Subcommittee.