Reform bill targets Trump abuses

This article is news with liberal commentary.

Trump has taken abuse of power to unprecedented levels, and on September 23, 2020, House Democrats unveiled a bill to rein in some of those excesses. They’ll need to win the White House and Senate to pass it. They claim the bill would:

  • Prevent presidential abuses

    • By limiting the pardon power. The bill would prohibit self-pardons, and require the White House and Department of Justice to notify Congress of any pardons or commutations involving (a) the president or his/her relatives, or (b) contempt of Congress or obstruction of Congress. The bill defines the president and vice president as “public officials” and pardons as “official acts” and “things of value” for purposes of the federal bribery statute.
    • By suspending the statute of limitations for federal offenses committed by a sitting president or vice president, making it easier to bring criminal prosecutions against them after leaving office.
    • By tightening the emoluments clause with new enforcement powers.

    Strengthen checks and balances, accountability and transparency

    • By giving Congress greater ability to enforce subpoenas, expediting the judicial process, and allowing judges to fine government officials for noncompliance.
    • By strengthening the Impoundment Control Act to preclude presidents and agencies from unilaterally moving funds not approved by Congress and creating penalties for noncompliance.
    • By limiting presidential emergency declarations not approved by Congress.
    • By requiring the attorney general to keep a communications log of contacts between DOJ and the White House, make it available to DOJ’s inspector general, and requiring him to report inappropriate communications to Congress.
    • By giving the inspector general more protection and imposing reporting requirements for removing one.
    • By increasing whistleblower protections.
    • By limiting the term of service of acting agency heads to 120 days.
    • By authorizing the Office of Special Counsel to fine political appointees who violate the Hatch Act up to $50,000.

    Prevent foreign election interference

    • By requiring political committees, candidates, and their immediate family members to report certain foreign contacts to federal authorities, and requiring the FBI to notify the congressional intelligence committees.
    • By prohibiting candidates and campaigns from seeking or receiving information from foreign entities, and increasing penalties for violations.

Read story here.

It doesn’t appear to me any of the above substantively reduces presidential powers; it’s more analogous to beefing up traffic patrols on streets where there’s flagrant speeding. House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) said he thinks Republicans might support the bill in the next Congress because they “will not want to see a Democratic president do half the things of the current president,” which makes perfect sense, because generally speaking Republicans don’t want Democrats to behave like they do.

On the subject of Trump’s abuses of power, if you try to get into his head, I think three things are going on. Expressed as a mathematical formula, it looks like “0 + 0 + 0 = 0.” First, he has a grade schooler’s understanding of civics, i.e. total ignorance. He’s never heard of checks and balances, and reacts to the phrase “due process” with a blank stare. Second, he doesn’t how to govern and thinks presiding over the U.S. government is like running a family business, because he doesn’t know how to do anything else. Third, he’s a one-trick pony. Even in business, the gift of blab is all he’s got; he’s a salesman and pitchman to be sure, but has no management skills to speak of, which is why his businesses lose money. In short, the mens rea to commit abuses of power is lacking, because he’s too ignorant to realize he’s abusing power, and too unethical to care whether he is. But shouldn’t that amount of incompetence be impeachable?

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0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Mark Adams #

    How would they get Biden to sign it if passed, and this is just grandstanding as it would have to be the next or the one after it that would have to try to pass any of this. It is also an acknowledgment that all the bad things they say the President is doing are perfectly legal.

    Some of the proposals are clearly unconstitutional.

    The Democrats will not have the super majority they would need in Congress to pass this boondoggle.

    Bet the incoming Congress never takes it up, and this is just theatre.

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    So now you’re a constitutional lawyer? Why would Biden oppose this? What supermajority? It’s almost a given the filibuster won’t survive a Democratic takeover of the Senate.