Trump-Proofing the Presidency: New Report Details How to Stymie the Next Deeply Unethical Person Elected to the White House

Trump-Proofing the Presidency: New Report Details How to Stymie the Next Deeply Unethical Person Elected to the White House
Image via Gage Skidmore, cropped.

Rich text editor, edit-body-und-0-value, press ALT 0 for help.

"The election of Donald Trump as president exposed numerous shortcomings and outright chasms in the ethics laws that govern the executive branch of the U.S. government," declares a new report from a pair of watchdog groups that argue much can be done to close loopholes the president has exploited since taking office.

The good news, as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) executive director Noah Bookbinder put it, is that "this administration's catastrophic ethical failings have provided a clear road map of the gaps in our system of presidential ethics which must be filled."

Published Tuesday by CREW and Public Citizen, Trump-Proofing the Presidency (pdf) calls for a "deep scrub" of existing executive branch ethics policies to fix "both longstanding, nettlesome problems" and "flaws that Trump has revealed."

Both groups have chronicled and challenged Trump's conflicts and violations throughout his presidency. Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen, noted that "no president has pushed the ethical boundaries like Trump."

"Many of the unprecedented ethical problems we see with this administration," Bookbinder explained, "stem from President Trump's failure to divest from his businesses."

The report's forward-looking proposals, which largely rely on congressional action, have four overarching goals:

  • 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.

Specific suggestions include requiring top officials to sell assets that pose a corruption risk, eliminating loopholes for financial disclosures, mandating candidates and office holders release their tax returns, safeguarding key posts from nepotism, and making White House visitor logs public.

The report also recommends revisions to policies that apply to special government employees such as billionaire Carl Icahn—who served as a "special adviser to the president on overhauling federal regulations"—and those governing White House contact with the Justice Department, which Trump has repeatedly sought to stymie and strongarm to suit his needs.

"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," the report says. Trump's presidency, it charges, has shown "it is risky to design a system that relies too heavily on this impulse from an executive."

Previous analyses published by Public Citizen this year have outlined how Trump's campaign has spent millions enriching the president's business empire—from which he's refused to divest, despite public outcry—and how dozens of political candidates, foreign governments, and interest groups have frequented Trump properties since his inauguration in hopes of influencing the president.

"Trump has shown utter disregard for the norms of avoiding conflicts of interest as a check on government corruption," Gilbert concluded. "The only silver lining is that because of Trump, we now know how to strengthen the system against future presidents who lack an ethical compass."

However, Bookbinder warned, "if Congress does not address these problems and fix this inherently broken system, then Trump won't be the exception—he'll likely be the start of a new trend."

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.