How to protect our democracy from the next Trump
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For four years, millions of Americans asked, “How can the President get away with that?” as President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump announces new social media network called 'TRUTH Social' Virginia State Police investigating death threat against McAuliffe Meadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report MORE abused his power in unprecedented ways, from undermining our elections to profiting from the presidency and tipping the scales of justice in favor of himself and his political allies. Where were the checks and balances that we had been assured were built into our political system? The answer quickly became clear that existing checks, including impeachment, are insufficient, and significant reforms are needed to safeguard our democracy from presidential corruption.

But nine months since Trump left the White House, Congress has not passed a single bill to prevent future abuses of executive power, even as Trump mulls another presidential run. While President BidenJoe Biden White House: US has donated 200 million COVID-19 vaccines around the world Police recommend charges against four over Sinema bathroom protest K Street revenues boom MORE has enacted tougher ethics guidelines for his team, nothing has been done that would stop a future president from repealing them and repeating Trump’s abuses — or worse.

To be clear, Americans did not take Trump’s assault on our democracy sitting down. Voters and organizations committed to the rule of law—including my own, Stand Up America—fought back. Our members drove hundreds of thousands of calls to Congress demanding accountability, mobilized for nationwide protests, and called out Trump’s corruption on a daily basis. What was missing was bold congressional action to stop presidential abuses.


After Watergate, Congress passed a series of reforms that strengthened campaign finance laws, increased transparency, and placed urgently-needed restrictions on the executive branch. The time has come again for Congress to reassert its role as a check on the executive and go further to protect us from future lawlessness.

Fortunately, legislation introduced in the House of Representatives this week—the Protecting Our Democracy Act, led by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffParis Hilton takes to Capitol Hill to advocate for troubled teen care reform Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt Press: Steve Bannon behind bars in Capitol basement? MORE (D-Calif.) and co-sponsored by more than 100 additional members—takes bold steps to stop future abuses of presidential power and restore balance across our government.

At its core, the Protecting Our Democracy Act would ensure that no president is above the law. It would enable presidents to be prosecuted for criminal wrongdoing by suspending the statute of limitations for any federal offense committed by a sitting president, whether before or during their term. It would prohibit self-pardons and prevent political interference at the Department of Justice by requiring transparency of communications between the department and the White House. To strengthen other critical checks on the president, the bill would expedite enforcement of congressional subpoenas and enhance protections for whistleblowers.

The Protecting Our Democracy Act would also crack down on blatant corruption and stop presidents from profiting from public office. It would enable Congress to enforce the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution that prohibits a president from accepting bribes, or payments of any kind, from foreign and domestic governments, which Trump did with startling frequency to the tune of millions of dollars.

If nothing else, we learned from the Trump presidency that tradition and democratic norms are insufficient safeguards on their own. For instance, every elected president since Nixon released tax returns to the American people, until Trump ended that streak. The Protecting Our Democracy Act would codify that tradition and ensure transparency by requiring tax disclosure for all major party presidential and vice presidential candidates in a general election.

Finally, the Protecting Our Democracy Act would help protect our elections from foreign interference and interference by a sitting president. It would make it a crime to accept information from foreign actors for political advantage, as Trump’s team was eager to do in the infamous Trump Tower meeting. To stop interference after Election Day and depoliticize presidential transitions, the bill would require the General Service Administration to begin the transition process within five days of the presidential election.

None of us know if future abuses of power will come from a Democrat or a Republican president, but we do know that Trump’s tenure exposed enormous gaps in existing safeguards. Trump himself could return to office, or a future president could build on his efforts to corrupt the highest office in our land. If we don’t act, the abuses we’ve already seen could look like child’s play.

For all of these reasons, the Protecting Our Democracy Act should receive bipartisan support and be passed into law this year. After all, if enacted now, these measures would not relitigate the Trump era, they would immediately put limits on President Biden and future presidents of any party. This is bigger than any single president. It’s about whether the checks and balances built into our system endure. That’s why more than 150 organizations from across the political spectrum have endorsed the bill.

If Republicans refuse to support this commonsense legislation, as they have opposed other pro-democracy measures, then Senate Democrats should reform the filibuster to ensure the Protecting Our Democracy Act passes in this Congress. President Biden and a Democratic-controlled Congress cannot squander the window they have right now to act. History would harshly judge inaction in the face of such glaring threats to our democracy.

Sean Eldridge is founder and president of Stand Up America, a group which seeks to increase voter participation and fight corruption.