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Category Archives: Congress

Presidential Pardons: Overview and Selected Legal Issues

EveryCRSReport: Presidential Pardons: Overview and Selected Legal Issues,, January 14, 2020: “Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the President “to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.” The power has its roots in the king’s prerogative to grant mercy under early English law, which later traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to the American colonies. The Supreme Court has recognized that the authority vested by the Constitution in the President is quite broad, describing it as “plenary,” discretionary, and largely not subject to legislative modification. Nonetheless, there are two textual limitations on the pardon power’s exercise: first, the President may grant pardons only for federal criminal offenses, and second, impeachment convictions are not pardonable. The Court has also recognized some other narrow restraints, including that a pardon cannot be issued to cover crimes prior to commission. The pardon power authorizes the President to grant several forms of relief from criminal punishment. The most common forms of relief are full pardons (for individuals) and amnesties (for groups of people), which completely obviate the punishment for a committed or charged federal criminal offense, and commutations, which reduce the penalties associated with convictions. An administrative process has been established through the Department of Justice’s Office of the Pardon Attorney for submitting and evaluating requests for these and other forms of clemency, though the process and regulations governing it are merely advisory and do not affect the President’s ultimate authority to grant relief.

As for whether a President may grant a self-pardon, no past President has ever issued such a pardon. As a consequence, no federal court has addressed the matter. That said, several Presidents have considered the proposition of a self-pardon, and scholars have reached differing conclusions on whether such an action would be permissible based on the text, structure, and history of the Constitution. Ultimately, given the limited authority available, the constitutionality of a self-pardon is unclear…”

FBI Changes Policy for Notifying States of Election Systems Cyber Breaches

WSJ.com [paywall] – “The Federal Bureau of Investigation will notify state officials when local election systems are believed to have been breached by hackers, a pivot in policy that comes after criticism that the FBI wasn’t doing enough to inform states of election threats. The FBI’s previous policy stated that it notified the direct victims… Continue Reading

GAO – Trump administration violated the law by withholding Ukraine aid

GAO – Office of Management and Budget—Withholding of Ukraine Security Assistance. B-331564: Jan 16, 2020. In the summer of 2019, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) withheld from obligation funds appropriated to the Department of Defense (DOD) for security assistance to Ukraine. In order to withhold the funds, OMB issued a series of nine… Continue Reading

Trump impeachment trial: legacy of judicial independence at stake

The Christian Science Monitor – As Roberts enters fray, legacy of judicial independence at stake – Why We Wrote This: “Presiding over an impeachment trial, Chief Justice John Roberts will seek to embody the judicial independence he often promotes. But the remainder of the Supreme Court term may be a tougher test…For an institutionalist like… Continue Reading

EFF Asks Supreme Court To Reverse Dangerous Rulings About API Copyrightability and Fair Use

EFF: “Washington D.C.—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that functional aspects of Oracle’s Java programming language are not copyrightable, and even if they were, employing them to create new computer code falls under fair use protections. The court is reviewing a long-running lawsuit Oracle filed against Google, which… Continue Reading

Can the Constitution stop the government from lying to the public

The Conversation – Helen Norton: “When regular people lie, sometimes their lies are detected, sometimes they’re not. Legally speaking, sometimes they’re protected by the First Amendment – and sometimes not, like when they commit fraud or perjury. But what about when government officials lie? I take up this question in my recent book, “The Government’s… Continue Reading

US Budgetary Costs and Obligations of Post-9/11 Wars through FY2020: $6.4 Trillion

Watson Institute, Neta C. Crawford – November 13, 2019: “Summary – Since late 2001, the United States has appropriated and is obligated to spend an estimated $6.4 Trillion through Fiscal Year 2020 in budgetary costs related to and caused by the post-9/11 wars—an estimated $5.4 Trillion in appropriations in current dollars and an additional minimum… Continue Reading

The Wild Wild West of Data Hoarding in the Federal Government

Active Navigation: “There is a strong belief, both in the public and private sector, that the worst thing you can do with a piece of data is to delete it. The government stores all sorts of data, from traffic logs to home ownership statistics. Data is obviously incredibly important to the Federal Government – but… Continue Reading

U.S. Killing of Qasem Soleimani: Frequently Asked Questions

EveryCRSReport.com: U.S. Killing of Qasem Soleimani: Frequently Asked Questions. January 8, 2020. “The January 2, 2020, U.S. killing in Iraq of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) Commander Qasem Soleimani, generally regarded as one of the most powerful and important officials in Iran, has potentially dramatic implications for the United States. For Congress, it raises… Continue Reading

Bots Are Destroying Political Discourse As We Know It

The Atlantic: “Text-generation software is already good enough to fool most people most of the time. It’s writing news stories, particularly in sports and finance. It’s talking with customers on merchant websites. It’s writing convincing op-eds on topics in the news (though there are limitations). And it’s being used to bulk up “pink-slime journalism”—websites meant… Continue Reading