American Oversight Sues Trump, Kushner for Transparency in Clemency Process

American Oversight today sued President Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and the Executive Office of the President under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) to allow public inspection of the records of the president’s reported clemency task force.

The Washington Post reported in February that Trump had organized a task force, led by Kushner, to advise him on potential pardon recipients and changes to the clemency process.

The group has reportedly been meeting since 2019, and is composed of a number of non-governmental members, including former acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, Democratic commentator Van Jones, the Heritage Foundation’s Paul Larkin, and Brett Tolman, a former U.S. attorney in Utah. Under FACA, whenever the president or agency officials establish or utilize an advisory committee that includes members who are not part of the federal government, certain transparency requirements apply.

“President Trump’s track record of politicizing the pardon power has created a two-track justice system in the United States — one track for friends, celebrities, and political allies of the president and another for the rest of us,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “Public transparency about what advice this advisory committee has provided about the president’s recent pardon decisions and what it will provide in the future is required by law and essential for public awareness and accountability.”

On February 20, American Oversight sent a formal letter to Kushner asking to inspect “all records prepared by or made available to task force members” as part of the advisory committee’s meetings. The watchdog group also explained that the clemency task force should not conduct any further business without complying with FACA’s transparency requirements. Copies of the letter were sent to the White House Counsel’s Office and the General Services Administration.

Three weeks later, neither Kushner nor anyone associated with the clemency task force has responded to American Oversight. Today’s lawsuit seeks to compel the advisory committee to comply with the transparency provisions within FACA that grant the public the right to oversee federal advisory committees. 

American Oversight is being represented by Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP in this suit. A copy of the complaint is available here

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