February 08, 2021

Merkley, Wyden, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Bring Transparency to Presidential Pardons

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley led three of his colleagues—including Senator Ron Wyden—today in introducing 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,” Merkley said. “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.”  

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.

Merkley and Wyden were joined today by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).