Democrats introduce post-Trump ethics bill to enforce subpoenas, limit conflicts

“Donald Trump made this legislation a necessity, but this is bigger than any one president,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in a news conference. “It’s about our values, our ideals and our future.”

The Protecting Our Democracy Act would speed up the enforcement of congressional subpoenas — which were routinely ignored by the Trump administration — and require administration officials to pay any court fines and legal fees.

After Trump refused to acknowledge Joe Biden’s election victory and disrupted the transition, the bill proposes starting the transition process within five days of the election and would allow both campaigns to receive government briefings and make other preparations.

It would also require presidents and candidates to submit years of income tax returns to the Federal Election Commission for public release — after Trump refused to release his returns as a candidate and as commander-in-chief, arguing that an ongoing Internal Revenue Service audit prevented him from doing so.

Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the proposal would prevent presidents from using their office as a “get-out-of-jail-free card,” by suspending the statute of limitations for crimes committed by a president or vice president while they are in office.

Schiff said the House could vote on the package later this fall. But it’s unclear if it has the support of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to clear the filibuster and 60-vote threshold for legislation.

“I realize many of the Republican members live in fear of angry statements from the former president,” Schiff said.

Many of the underlying bills in the package, including proposals to beef up protections for whistleblowers and independent inspectors general at government agencies, have bipartisan support — suggesting that Democrats could have more success in the Senate if they take it up piecemeal.

The Biden administration has worked “very constructively” with Democrats for months on the package, Schiff said.

The White House asked lawmakers to exempt administration officials from court fines if they are instructed to ignore subpoenas by the president. The version of the bill unveiled Tuesday also did not include earlier language requiring the White House to turn over presidential communications to Congress.

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