Records from Trump’s Presidential Pardons Advisory Committee Must Be Available to the Public

President Donald Trump, who this week issued a flurry of controversial pardons, has reportedly assembled a team of advisers to help him determine how to use his pardon powers. On Thursday, American Oversight filed a formal request to inspect the records of that group.

As a federal advisory committee, the clemency task force, which according to the Washington Post has been meeting since late last year, should make its records available to the public under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

The FACA statute requires that 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. The Post’s article about the group said that it is composed of a number of non-governmental members, including former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, Democratic commentator Van Jones, the Heritage Foundation’s Paul Larkin, and Brett Tolman, a former U.S. attorney in Utah. Pam Bondi, who worked on Trump’s impeachment team, is also involved, as is Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner.

American Oversight sent a letter to Kushner on Thursday, asking to inspect “all records prepared by or made available to task force members” as part of the advisory committee’s meetings. We 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.

Read the letter below.

Trump’s decision this week to grant clemency to  multiple white-collar criminals — including former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted on corruption charges in 2011, as well as to financier Michael Milken and former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik — was roundly criticized. And with the sentencing on Thursday of Trump ally Roger Stone, many have speculated that Stone could also be the beneficiary of a presidential pardon.

“President Trump’s track record on pardons for friends, celebrities, and political allies reveals the extent to which he has created a special channel for justice in America,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. “But while the president may believe this task force toils for him alone, it actually works for, and must be accountable to, the public. The task force must obey the law and meet statutorily mandated transparency requirements if the public is to have confidence in the fairness of its recommendations.”

This is not the first time FACA concerns have arisen around high-profile advisory committees in the Trump administration. In 2017, American Oversight represented Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in a lawsuit filed under FACA to prevent the president’s “voter fraud” commission from excluding Democratic commission members from participating in deliberations or receiving information. Documents obtained by Dunlap showed that the commission — which was dissolved in 2018 — had not found any new evidence of widespread voter fraud.

American Oversight February 20, 2020, Letter

Related Blog Posts

March 28, 2020

A Pandemic Is No Time for Secrecy

News
March 27, 2020

News Roundup: Transparency and Oversight Are More Important Than Ever

Bartow County - Georgia, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services, Cobb County - Georgia, Customs and Border Protection, DeKalb County - Georgia, Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Drug Enforcement Administration, Executive Office for Immigration Review, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Federal Election Commission, Florida Department of State, Florida Office of the Attorney General, Florida Office of the Governor, Fulton County - Georgia, General Services Administration, Georgia Office of the Governor, Georgia Secretary of State, Gwinnett County - Georgia, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, National Security Division, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, U.S. Marshals Service
News
March 24, 2020

We Cannot Let Trump Use a National Emergency to Get Rich and Ignore the Constitution

Congress, White House
News
March 20, 2020

News Roundup: Testing, Messaging and Missed Chances

Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, Federal Communications Commission, Florida Office of the Attorney General, Georgia Attorney General, Harris County - Texas, Nevada Department of the Administration, Office of Management and Budget, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Texas Attorney General
News
March 19, 2020

Three Years of American Oversight

News
March 17, 2020

The Increase in FOIA Lawsuits Isn’t the Problem — It’s Agencies Underfunding Their Transparency Obligations

Department of Justice
News
March 13, 2020

News Roundup: Continuing Our Investigation of Coronavirus Response

Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Federal Reserve, Georgia Secretary of State, Texas Secretary of State, Washington State Department of Health, Wisconsin
Investigation Update
News
March 12, 2020

American Oversight Sues Trump, Kushner for Transparency in Clemency Process

Executive Office of the President, White House
Investigation Update
News
February 21, 2020

When the Government Uses Redactions to Hide Evidence of Wrongdoing

Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Office of Management and Budget
News
February 7, 2020

News Roundup: Acquittal Isn’t the End

Cobb County - Georgia, DeKalb County - Georgia, Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Department of State, Florida Department of State, Fulton County - Georgia, Georgia Secretary of State, Gwinnett County - Georgia, Office of Management and Budget
News
January 24, 2020

News Roundup: Evidence of Obstruction

Clayton County - Georgia, Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Communications Commission, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Management and Budget, Tennessee Valley Authority, Texas Attorney General, Texas Office of the Governor, Texas Secretary of State, Texas Senate
News
January 7, 2020

Did the Trump Administration Abuse the Redactions Process?

Department of Defense, Office of Management and Budget
News
December 11, 2019

Lawsuit over Administration’s Unlawful Seizure of Trump-Putin Meeting Notes Moves Forward

Department of State, National Archives and Records Administration
Investigation Update
News