Two organizations that have been at the forefront of thinking ahead to a post-Trump democratic restoration – Public Citizen and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) – are out today with a thorough and serious to-do list for Congress.
The full report is called “Trump-Proofing the Presidency: A Plan for Executive Branch Ethics Reform.” The second part of the executive summary outlines the specific recommendations in four major areas:
- Preventing Conflicts of Interest,
- Improving Financial Disclosure of Candidates and Office Holders
- Enhancing Rules on Gifts to Candidates and Public Officials, and
- Strengthening the Integrity of Government
If nothing else, look those over, and start your mulling.
The new report joins and gently competes with Protect Democracy’s “Roadmap for Renewal: A Legislative Blueprint for Protecting our Democracy” issued back in July. And there are more to come.
I’ll be writing more about Trump-proofing suggestions in the next few days and weeks, but read the report in the meantime. And I want to call special attention to its authors’ explanation of why they set their sights primarily on the legislative branch:
We focus on Congress because one overarching lesson from President Trump’s assault on the ethics system is that many parts of that system have worked in the past because presidents wanted to avoid corruption risks; the system was designed to help them do that. We have now seen that it is risky to design a system that relies too heavily on this impulse from an executive. The checks and balances that are the cornerstone of our constitutional system must play a larger role in protecting Americans from corruption and its corrosive effects on their everyday lives; this is Congress’s power and its obligation.
The italics are in the original, and they appropriately accentuate what is so different about Trump, what he is teaching us about foreseen and unforeseen loopholes in our constitutional system, and how we can go about fixing them.
And the central challenge, as with so many things Trump, is to restore the system of checks and balances that, tested like never before, has failed thus far.