House Democrats debut bill that would rein in Trump's abuse of power

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The Protecting Our Democracy Act seeks to reassert congressional oversight over the Executive branch.

House Democrats called out Donald Trump directly this week while introducing a number of broad, sweeping reforms aimed at presidential corruption and abuse of power.

The 158-page bill called Protecting Our Democracy Act aims "to restore our system of checks and balances," according to a press release from the House oversight committee.

“Since taking office, President Trump has placed his own personal and political interests above the national interest by protecting and enriching himself, targeting his political opponents, seeking foreign interference in our elections, eroding transparency, seeking to end accountability, and otherwise abusing the power of his office,” seven House committee chairs said in a joint statement.

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The Democratic lawmakers intended to expand on the laws and reforms enacted after the Watergate scandal and other Nixon administration abuses of power.

"Those measures have stood the test of time — limits to prevent executive abuses, sweeping reforms to increase transparency and ethics, campaign finance reform, enhanced Congressional oversight, and more," a fact sheet of the bill reads. "Until now."

The measure specifically seeks to curb abuse of the pardon power, requiring congressional review of materials if the pardon is for the president's relatives or is related to obstruction of Congress. The bill would also prohibit the president from granting self-pardons.

The proposal would also empower courts to fine government officials who fail to comply with congressional subpoenas.

In light of the recent Trump administration's Hatch Act violations, the measure would additionally authorize the Office of Special Counsel to investigate and issue civil fines.

Another provision requires that political committees report certain foreign contacts in an effort to "protect our elections" and prevent foreign interference in elections.

With Republicans in control of the Senate, the bill is not likely to pass Congress before the Nov. 3 presidential election. But Democrats, hoping for a Biden victory, are looking to close gaps in democracy exposed by Trump's abuses of power.

Since taking office, Trump has withheld crucial military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political opponent — a move that led to his eventual impeachment in the House — and has come under heavy criticism for a number of other maneuvers meant to shield himself and his allies. Among those are several pardons and commutations he has granted to associates charged with obstruction, lying to federal authorities and Congress, and campaign finance violations, as well as a variety of other crimes.

Trump has also prevented former staffers from testifying in various investigations, and has been rebuked for profiting off of the presidency, pushing administration officials including Vice President Mike Pence to stay at Trump branded properties across the globe.

"It is our responsibility to ensure that our democracy carries on for generations to come," the House chairs said this week in their press release.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.