How can Biden undo Trump’s damage? With a lot of new anti-corruption laws

Alexander Heffner
·3 min read
Biden (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Biden (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

President-elect Biden is about to inherit the most significant public health crisis in American history. And he's promising an unprecedented 100 million vaccinations in 100 days.

A battered and bloodied country desperately needs the vaccination. And administering the shots will require vigorously employing the Defense Production Act, which his predecessor failed to do, and a strategy to achieve national immunity.

But the survival of American democracy is an equally urgent order of business.

We need hundreds, if not 100 million, actions to reverse the corrosive corruption of Donald Trump. Four years from now, we need proof that the malignancy of Trump and his accomplices has been purged.

You might ask how, when thousands of Americans are perishing each day from the pandemic, this is a competing imperative. First, it’s the reason why we’re in this out of control conflagration.

Remember that Trump's malice precipitated the present crisis. According to journalist Katherine Eban's investigation, the administration deliberately withheld pandemic aid to New York City and other Democratic-governed hotspots.

He also planted seeds of authoritarianism that won’t disappear and will need to be eradicated.

Can President Biden and the new 117th Congress legislate it back to life?

American redemption begins with the immediate prosecution and conviction of Trump and the expulsion of members of Congress who aided and abetted the violent insurrection on the Capitol. Either under the impeachment clause or the 14th Amendment, Congress can and must disqualify Trump from holding future public office and remove all benefits, especially the intelligence briefing that ex-presidents receive.

You simply cannot justify giving national intelligence to the person responsible for a traitorous rebellion against the United States.

Then, there should be an investigation into Trump and his Cabinet’s violations of the Emoluments Clause. As forthcoming American Kleptocracy author Casey Michel told me recently, it’s entirely plausible that the Trump organization and family will continue to benefit from deals made while Trump was president.

Donald Trump shattered the expectation that the president would exclusively serve the interest of the country. Despite constant pledges to separate or divest from his business, he did not, and there were no mechanisms to account for his company’s foreign deals, corporate activities, and their influence on the decisions of the executive branch.

Moreover, denying federal assistance, be it PPP or vaccines, on the basis of American communities' political representation should be criminalized. So should appointing woefully unqualified family members as White House senior advisors, who made a mockery of merit-based government. Never again should the U.S. government be confused for a despotic royal shrine.

The kleptocratic kakistocracy that Trump enabled is bigger than one presidency, and that’s why it’s essential that things not return to an ethically compromised status quo in which norms are defiled and laws do not prevent massive corruption.

For example, there are not currently rules governing recusals by Supreme Court justices. There ought to be. As we saw with conflict-of-interest scandals involving several of Trump's Cabinet members, and later the abusive stock trading practices of Georgia’s outgoing U.S. senators, there is little assurance of good government in America.

These reforms can be part of a comprehensive anti-corruption package to ensure those running our country in the future are dedicated to the public trust. This is not to suggest that the Democrats should be afraid to revitalize the representation of our institutions in big systemic ways—like the expansion of seats on the Supreme Court and the addition of new states. But anti-corruption reforms are not small potatoes. They are an agenda that can be legislated quickly and potentially on a bipartisan basis.

With the fabric of U.S. democracy in ruins, Biden campaigned to restore our moral compass and also to return to normalcy. He and the Democrats should be held to a high standard for what returning to ethical normalcy means.