Beto O’Rourke Takes Aim at Trump With Proposed Reforms

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke speaks in Phoenix, Ariz., on Oct. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Jonathan Cooper)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke on Tuesday proposed executive branch reforms to limit pardons and strengthen enforcement of the U.S. Constitution’s anti-corruption provisions to prevent abuses of presidential power, which is central to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

Under the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, a politician may not accept “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

In the wake of President Trump’s assertion Monday that the emoluments clause is “phony,” O’Rourke reaffirmed his support for impeachment and said in a statement “it is also time to pass additional reforms that heed [George] Washington’s advice” to be aware of the dangers of foreign influence in U.S. politics.

“In his farewell address, George Washington warned of the ‘insidious wiles’ of foreign powers and urged Americans ‘to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government,’” O’Rourke said.

The former Texas congressman wants to make it a federal crime, through both civil and criminal remedies, to “attempt to secure or acceptance of assistance from a foreign power for personal profit or political gain.”

He further proposes making clear that the term “emolument” includes non-financial assistance from foreign governments, and tolling the statute of limitations on potential emoluments violations during a presidential term.

Trump’s recent actions have elevated the national conversation about emoluments, including accusations that he leveraged military funding to Ukraine in exchange for damaging information about the family of potential 2020 opponent and former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as investigation into the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 election. Those claims form the basis of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney also said last week that next year’s G-7 Summit would be held at Trump National Doral golf resort near Miami, but the decision was reversed Saturday amid criticisms about the appearance of emoluments violations.

O’Rourke also proposed a constitutional amendment to ban the use of “self-protective” pardons, in which the president pardons “an individual connected to an investigation in which the president or one of his family members is a target, subject, or witness.”

Until the amendment is passed, the 2020 hopeful has also called for the president to disclose evidence from investigations into the person being pardoned.

During former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into interference in the 2016 presidential election, Trump floated the idea of pardoning his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was eventually convicted of a series of financial crimes, including tax evasion and money laundering. Though Manafort is not a member of the Trump family, O’Rourke’s plan also focuses on abuse of the pardon power to protect the president’s political allies.

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