News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Balance of Power
Big Picture
True
Alex Wong/Getty Images

"For Trump, impeachment is likely, removal is dubious, and a re-election campaign is all but certain," write Kristen Nyman and Anthony Marcum.

Three impeachment scenarios dangerous for democracy

Nyman is a government affairs specialist and Marcum is a governance fellow at the R Street Institute, a nonpartisan and pro-free-market public policy research organization.

Imagine the following: Early next year the House of Representatives impeaches President Trump. One of these three scenarios is likely to follow.

Behind curtain number one, the president is acquitted at the subsequent trial in the Senate. He then takes the stage in Charlotte, N.C., to accept the Republican nomination for president in 2020.

Keep reading... Show less
Balance of Power
True
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

"While the current battle between Trump and congressional Democrats is newsworthy, it is not entirely new," writes Jennifer Selin.

Trump, Ukraine and a whistleblower: Ever since 1796, Congress has struggled to keep presidents in check

Selin is an assistant professor of Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

George Washington, hero of the American Revolution and the country's first president, in 1796 withheld documents the House of Representatives had requested from him regarding treaty negotiations with France.

Washington thought that giving the House papers respecting a negotiation with a foreign power would be to establish a dangerous precedent.

Washington's reluctance to hand over these documents has echoed through time, in conflicts between Congress and Presidents Monroe, Jefferson, Adams all the way to Presidents Coolidge, Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan, among others. For the most part, members of Congress still must rely on the president and his administration for information in the areas of foreign relations and intelligence.

In the latest version of that long-running tension between Congress and the president over power, Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire appeared before the House Intelligence Committee last week.

The testimony is part of a chain of events that began in August when an anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, who is tasked by Congress to identify problems in the national intelligence agencies. The complaint related to reports that President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. The developing conflict between Trump and Congress has involved, among other aspects, a struggle over who can have access to crucial documents.

Keep reading... Show less
Balance of Power
Pool/Getty Images

Speaker Nancy Pelosi might want to follow the path created in 1998 by the GOP Judiciary Committee, which focused the Clinton impeachment on the work of independent counsel Ken Starr (standing).

To boost Hill credibility, some clues from the last impeachment

The very course of American history is shifting with the formalized launch of an impeachment inquiry against President Trump. And for those who view democracy as broken, and well beyond all the recently alleged abuses of executive power, one important undercurrent is captured by this question:

Can Congress use the proceedings to recalibrate the balance of power, reclaiming even a bit of the muscle it's allowed to atrophy to the benefit of presidents for so long — and maybe even end up boosting its abysmal public reputation as dysfunctional and polarized?

It's a big reach. But the ingredients are there for Capitol Hill to reap lasting institutional benefit from the coming drama, and for American democracy to be better off at the end, no matter what the outcome for Trump.

Looking to emulate aspects of the last impeachment is a place to start.

Keep reading... Show less
Big Picture
True
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

During his State of the Union address this year, President Trump said he would stonewall the legislative process if members of Congress don't play ball, writes Neal.

A year of broken standards for America’s democracy

Neal is federal government affairs manager at R Street Institute, a nonpartisan and pro-free-market public policy research organization.

The term "democratic norms" has become a misnomer over the last year. America's governing institutions are undermined by elected officials who dishonor their offices and each other. Standards of behavior and "normal" processes of governance seem to be relics of a simpler time. Our democracy has survived thus far, but the wounds are many.

Free speech and free press have been the White House's two consistent whipping posts. Comments such as "I think it is embarrassing for the country to allow protestors" and constant attacks on press credibility showcase President Trump's disdain for the pillars of democracy. Traditional interactions between the administration and the press are no longer taken for granted. Demeaning, toxic criticisms have become so common that they're being ignored. As the administration revokes critics' press passes and daily briefings are canceled, normalcy in this arena is sorely missed.

Keep reading... Show less