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House Democrats press forward with effort to curtail presidential powers after Trump

Many of the bill’s provisions are a response to the way Donald Trump operated as president.
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WASHINGTON — House Democrats introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at preventing abuses of presidential power in what supporters of the measures say is largely a response to Donald Trump's actions as president.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., highlighted the Protecting Our Democracy Act during a news conference alongside its chief sponsor, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

"We have to codify this, turn it into law, so that no president of whatever party can ever assume that he or she has the power to usurp the power of the other branches of government," Pelosi said. "And it is specific in its remedies," adding the bill will be a protection against "against future abuse."

The measure would limit a president’s pardon power, require presidential candidates to be transparent with their tax records, and extend a deadline for prosecuting former presidents and vice presidents for federal crimes committed before or during their time in office.

It would also ensure that incoming presidents have access to resources for the transition period following an election, and would require the disclosure of contacts between the White House and the Justice Department.

Schiff told reporters Tuesday that the legislation will allow the U.S. government to function as intended, "so that we're not focused on the unscrupulous behavior of a president bent on subverting our democracy."

"Donald Trump made this legislation a necessity, but this is bigger than about any one particular president," Schiff said. "The former president trampled many of our sacred norms and institutions, violating laws and breaking long standing precedent was shocking ease. It demonstrated over the last four years, just how vulnerable our democracy was, how dependent we are on norms of office and precedent that we thought were inviolate, that it turns out can be violated with impunity."

Trump, for example, has refused since his first bid for the White House to release his tax records, repeatedly claiming that he couldn’t do so because the IRS was conducting an audit of his documents. Such an audit does not preclude an individual from choosing to release their tax information to the public, and doing so is a longstanding tradition for those seeking the nation’s highest office — not a requirement.

Before Trump left office, he pardoned hundreds of people including his former campaign manager Paul Manafort, his former adviser Roger Stone, his other former campaign manager, Steve Bannon, and his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Democrats introduced the measure in previous congresses. If the measure advances in the House, Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to support the package for it to advance to a final vote.