United For Liberty

There has been a growing awareness in recent years of the critical role of checks and balances to prevent abuses of power, especially by the executive branch. This is the focus of two volumes of recommendations put forward by the Brennan Center’s bipartisan National Task Force on the Rule of Law & Democracy. The Brennan Center’s Martha Kinsella and Daniel I. Weiner spoke with Tim Lau about the ongoing efforts to restore government ethics and the rule of law, including recent federal legislation such as the Protecting our Democracy Act, which includes several key task force recommendations. 

In the United States, there’s an important conversation happening about the rule of law, government ethics, and preventing abuses of power, especially by the executive branch. What’s the context behind that conversation?

Martha Kinsella: There has been an erosion of norms, unwritten rules, and practices in a variety of different areas of government, including at the Department of Justice. This predates the Trump administration. There were abuses before, such as Watergate and the U.S. attorney firing scandal during the George W. Bush administration. But there has been a marked acceleration in the number and the magnitude of abuses during the current administration. To address this situation, we need to do more than just restore the norms that were unwritten before. We need to actually codify them — really give them the force of law — across many different areas, from rule of law, to ethics, to the personnel process, to the role of science in government policymaking.

Daniel I. Weiner: I think that’s right. For virtually every abuse of power you see, there’s some antecedent from prior administrations. We’ve had administrations that have bent science to serve their political goals, had prior administrations where there were ethics issues — both Democratic and Republican. But under the Trump administration, it feels like everything has amped up exponentially, to the point where the integrity of our democracy is in question. That’s why abstract commitments to go back to unwritten rules aren’t enough, because the unwritten rules themselves weren’t enough. That’s the impetus for saying that some of this stuff really does need to be codified. 

I moderated an event yesterday, with the co-chairs of the Brennan Center’s bipartisan National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy, former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, task force member and former Solicitor General Don Verrilli, and Associate Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Janai Nelson, about the current state of the rule of law in this country. It was a fascinating and very timely conversation, and I encourage people to check it out.

Full Article – https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/why-we-need-protect-rule-law-federal-government

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *