Never Again: Democrats Craft Reforms to Curb Executive Abuses

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi kneels to look at small flags placed on the grounds of the National Mall by activists from the Covid Memorial Project to mark the deaths of 200,000 lives lost in the U.S. to the virus on Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Seven House committee chairs released sweeping legislation Wednesday morning with the hope of addressing what they claim are improprieties committed by President Donald Trump and his administration.  

The Protecting Our Democracy Act takes aim at multiple agencies within the executive branch, including the Department of Justice, with the hope of preventing “future presidential abuses, restore our checks and balances, strengthen accountability and transparency, and protect our elections.”  

Highlights include requiring additional details about presidential pardons, suspending the statute of limitations for “any federal offense committed by a sitting president or vice president,” and codifying the emoluments clause in the hopes of further restricting gifts Presidents can receive that could cause improper influence. 

Efforts by congressional Democrats to challenge Trump over gifts he’s received from foreign powers have stumbled throughout the litigation process with the D.C. Circuit gutting the effort in February after finding the body did not have standing to bring suit. 

Though the Fourth Circuit later allowed a suit filed by Washington, D.C., and Maryland to continue, the effort has been caught up in procedural disputes ever since. A similar challenge in New York was revived as well but is also being held up by appeals.

“These reforms are necessary not only because of the abuses of this president, but because the foundation of our democracy is the rule of law and that foundation is deeply at risk,” the committee chairs said in a statement about the legislation Wednesday. “This is just the beginning because we need to obtain more information so that we can continue to refine and develop these and other reforms.”

Democrats have decried perceived abuses by President Trump for years. Because they are outnumbered in the Senate, however, moves like Trump’s impeachment have not managed to get much further than the Democratic-controlled House.

Wednesday’s legislation also addresses a number of election reforms, including requiring campaigns to report foreign contacts as well as mandating FBI reports on election interference.  

As the country inches closer toward the November general elections, reports have ratcheted up of multiple foreign actors looking for ways to influence the U.S. election.

Democrats also hope to see the Justice Department begin logging communications between the attorney general and the executive branch. That log would then be submitted to the Inspector General’s Office twice a year with a report on its findings sent to congress. 

Trump’s influence over the agency has stirred objections many Democrats who accuse Attorney General William Barr of using the agency to support the president’s personal interests, rather than national ones.

One of the more recent saw the Justice Department stepping in to defend Trump in a defamation claim brought by a woman who claims the president raped her. 

For months, the agency has also been pushing to terminate the prosecution of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, who already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with Russian agents. The D.C. Circuit ruled last month that the judge presiding over Flynn’s case could hold a hearing, rather than dismiss the case outright as the government requests.

Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, praised the House’s efforts to rein in these perceived abuses.

“The past four years have seen great damage to our democratic institutions,” Tanden said in a statement. “These reforms are crucial to protect our democracy and the rule of law. 

Republican congressional leadership did not return requests for comment. 

The bill’s authors are Chairman Adam Schiff, Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairman John Yarmuth, Chairperson Zoe Lofgren, Chairman Eliot Engel and Chairman Richard E. Nea.

%d bloggers like this: