Protect Democracy applauds bipartisan call from 2020 candidates to limit presidential power

  • September 10, 2019
“From Warren to Walsh, there is overwhelming agreement: it’s time for Congress to impose guardrails on the increasingly imperial presidency.”  Today, the New York Times journalist Charlie Savage published answers from 17 presidential candidates in response to a questionnaire about the candidates’ views on the limits of presidential power under the Constitution. By answering this quadrennial survey, the candidates have given voters a first look into how they will approach some of the most controversial legal questions presidents face.

On a consistent and bipartisan basis, candidates’ answers show the stark contrast between President Trump’s extreme view of executive power and the rest of the political spectrum. The answers are also particularly significant because for the first time they encourage Congress to move forward with a set of reforms that would impose legal constrictions on presidential power.

“For the first time the survey asked candidates what constraints they believe Congress can lawfully impose on presidents to prevent them from abusing the vast powers of the office. Once in office, presidents don’t typically cede their powers to Congress. So it’s striking that on this set of answers, from Warren to Walsh, there is overwhelming agreement: Congress has significant room to impose guardrails on the increasingly imperial presidency.” — Ian Bassin, Executive Director

“As attorneys in President Obama’s White House Counsel’s Office, we can attest from experience that President Obama was committed to honoring the survey answers he had provided as a candidate. His answers also guided our work as his White House lawyers. Similarly, presidential candidates’ answers to this survey will be constantly referred back to and will inform how the next president and their staff approach these issues.” — Justin Florence, Legal Director

Protect Democracy has been working with Congress to advance legislation that would codify presidential abuse of power guardrails into law. Members of the Senate and the House have introduced the Security from Political Interference in Justice Act, to protect the Department of Justice from White House interference. The Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has introduced the No President Is Above the Law Act to ensure that presidents can be held accountable after leaving office for criminal conduct. Bills to deter improper abuses of the pardon power and security clearance process are gaining support in both Chambers. And House leadership has pledged to advance legislation to prevent additional presidential abuses of power.

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