Unless Congress soon reasserts some of its power to check the executive branch, the odds that our democracy will last more than another decade or so seem, to me, depressingly low. — Laurence Tribe, a constitutional-law professor at Harvard
Unless Congress soon reasserts some of its power to check the executive branch, the odds that our democracy will last more than another decade or so seem, to me, depressingly low. — Laurence Tribe, a constitutional-law professor at Harvard
Legal experts told us their nightmare scenarios about what happens to US democracy if Trump wins the presidency again in 2024
  • President Donald Trump defied Congress and flouted norms from the White House.
  • Democrats are pushing measures to limit presidential power, but their paths are tough.
  • Legal experts say any president could follow Trump's road map.
Trump enraged critics by snubbing congressional subpoenas, defying the anticorruption Hatch Act, refusing to divest himself of business interests, circumventing Congress on spending, and much more.

"There is a road map for any president to abuse any of these powers in the same way or potentially worse ways," said Elizabeth Hempowicz, the director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group.

Congressional Democrats are pushing a series of measures that directly respond to many of their biggest criticisms of Trump. The effort, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who led Trump's first impeachment inquiry, aims to give Congress more power when it comes to presidential pardons, enforcement of the emoluments clauses, and the policing of subpoenas. It would make it harder to fire government watchdogs, toughen federal enforcement for Hatch Act violations, and attempt to limit White House political interference at the Justice Department.

But nine months into the Biden administration, and with Democrats in control of both chambers of Congress, none of the legislation introduced to prevent a Trump 2.0 has been enacted, and it doesn't appear to have much of a chance of becoming law anytime soon.

The White House and Congress are more immediately focused on the coronavirus response and legislation to enact some of Biden's biggest domestic-policy priorities.

Even if the reforms were to clear the Democratic-led House, they'd need to get Republican support in the Senate. There, Democrats hold 50 seats and the narrowest of majorities — and face a 60-vote threshold for overcoming a Republican filibuster to pass most legislation.

Legal scholars say that if Democrats don't make big changes to limit presidential authority, there's every reason to believe a future White House occupant will try to again push the boundaries of executive power. The consequences, some say, could be dire.

"Unless Congress soon reasserts some of its power to check the executive branch, the odds that our democracy will last more than another decade or so seem, to me, depressingly low," said Laurence Tribe, a constitutional-law professor at Harvard.

The legislation from Schiff and other House Democrats, Tribe said, would "restore the system of checks and balances that has kept our republic afloat through the most turbulent times."

But Frank Bowman, a law professor at the University of Missouri, said Trump or another president would likely attempt to expand White House authority.

"From a constitutional perspective, the principal fail-safe for a president who simply is blowing through laws and norms is impeachment, and we know that there is no stomach in the congressional Republican Party for getting rid of a guy like Trump who is prepared to behave in that way," Bowman said. If Trump were to win reelection, he said, "we are on a short road to the loss of American democracy."

Michael Gerhardt, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, said it would "be difficult at best to imagine Congress will pass a law curbing presidential power."

Even if that happens, "a president who does not want to follow it will simply ignore or work around it," he added. If Trump returns to the White House, Gerhardt said, "there is no doubt" that "he will be even more brazen in his abuse of power, particularly against those whom he imagines stole the 2020 election from him."


Had the Senate convicted Trump after either of his impeachments by the House, lawmakers could have voted to bar him from holding federal office again. But Trump was acquitted in both of his Senate trials. He has not yet said whether he will run again in 2024, though he's hinted that he will — and has been raising tens of millions of dollars for his political action committees in the meantime.
Read the full article: https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-for-president-2024-congress-constitution-reforms-2021-9