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Presidential Corruption: What can we do to ensure that thoughtful and anti-corrupt decisions are made in the Oval Office?

Presidential corruption is worse than you think. It causes chaos within society, distrust within voters, and worst of all undermines America’s founding values and democracy. 45th President Donald Trump has been the most corrupt president ever. It seems that there are no boundaries on conflicts of interest, injustices, and moments of corruption with him. So what can we ourselves, and America as a whole do to eliminate corruption from being and issue in future presidencies.

Why I chose this problem:

I decided to tackle presidential corruption as my issue because it is one of the most pertinent and active problems within America at the moment. There has been headline after headline detailing potential moments of corruption with President Trump. I decided that presidential corruption is one of the biggest problems in America that there is not a well developed solution for, so this would be the perfect time to work on one.

History of my problem:

Political corruption found a new meaning in the early 1970’s during the infamous Watergate scandal. The scandal took place from June, 1972 to August, 1974 during the presidency of Richard Nixon, when the Democratic National Committee headquarters were broken into. Throughout this scandal which was orchestrated by the president, Nixon defied a subpoena, bribed criminals with “hush money,” and corruptly fired his staff. Read my full analysis and recap of water gate here.

What you need to know:

45th president Donald Trump has been the most corrupt president ever. From his 2016 election to his 2020 impeachment on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice, corruption has been an issue with Trump. So why is this extremely corrupt president still in office? Well, Trump was acquitted of his charges due to a “lack of evidence.” This is why we need to create laws and policies to enforce the revealment of evidence. Trump has drastically changed the norm for shadiness and potential corruption within a secretive oval office. “What has happened in America under Trump is a tectonic shift that is generating an unthinkable realignment. Trump has poked and prodded the limits of acceptability, and he has found them to be not fixed, but flexible. He has continuously stretched the range of acceptable behavior” (Blow). Trump’s actions are reminiscent of the corruption during the Nixon presidency but on a completely larger scale. Trump has openly lied, hidden information, attempted bribery, and had issues of conflict of interest. “This is the new America, one in which all the old rules have been wiped away, one in which corruption is tolerated, one in which truth is denigrated, one in which tyrants are venerated” (Blow). Similar to Nixon’s presidency, us American citizens have become so overwhelmed with new corruption every day, that we are becoming desensitized and used to it. Trump is rejecting the “due responsibility” (Bose) that comes with being president, betraying America, and undermining democracy.

 So, what are people doing to stop these heinous acts of presidential corruption? Some people (like Elizabeth Warren) have taken it upon them to create lengthy and detailed anti-corruption plans, there are also organizations attempting to pass acts and laws to help with corruption. While the organization’s “rallying the people” strategy has not been very successful due to organizations’ lack of governmental authority and status, I believe that if the right senators, or even presidents (weird, huh) can create persuasive plans, they could be able to pass laws and make change. Here is my plan.

For now:

  1. Conflict of Interest Laws (macro): Currently the US has laws that “specifically prevent government employees, such as the White House staff, from owning shares of companies that could compromise their work, but they do not apply to the president or vice-president (“Donald Trump: A List of Potential Conflicts of Interest.”). Senator Elizabeth Warren has a detailed Anti-Corruption plan that has suggested creating the “Presidential Conflict of Interest Act.” If passed, this act would “require the President and the Vice President to place conflicted assets, including businesses, into a blind trust to be sold off” (Warren). This would very much inhibit economic conflict of interest in the oval office and hopefully eliminate instances of corruption. For example, in January of 2017, Trump finalized the construction of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline, which would be built by a company that Trump had a 500,000 to 1 million dollar investment in (“Donald Trump: A List of Potential Conflicts of Interest.”). Was this a moment of presidential corruption and economic conflict of interest, did Trump make this decision for what he thought was the good of America, or for the good of himself? Well, we would not even have to ask this question if Trump did not privately own shares of these companies.
  2. Establish US Office of Public Integrity (macro): My second macro solution also suggested by Elizabeth Warren’s anti-corruption plan is to establish a US Office of Public Integrity. Under the Judicial Branch, this office would absorb the US Office of Governmental Ethics. While the foundational idea and purpose of the US Office of Governmental Ethics is sound, The OGE simply does not have enough power or authority to actually prevent corruption. For example, the Director of the OGE is extremely distanced from the president and can actually enforce very little as they are just there to offer recommendations. The Director of my proposed US Office of Public Integrity however, would be a member of the presidential cabinet and in the oval office quite frequently to listen in on Trump’s meetings and enforce that there are no moments of corruption in his presidency.
  3. Move Justice Department to Judicial Branch (macro): This macro solution relates more to the corruption issues with Nixon than to the many with Trump. In October 1973, President Richard Nixon fired the man leading an investigation on him. How was this possible? Nixon was able to do this because Archibald Cox, a special prosecutor from the Justice Department was investigating him. Now you see, the Justice Department is under the executive branch, and who runs the executive branch? The president. Moving the Justice Department to the Judiciary branch would completely disable corrupt acts like. However, I would detach the Attorney General from the Justice Department as I feel they are necessary to be in the executive branch, so therefore a Director of the Justice Department would need to be appointed. While this move may seem insignificant, I believe that it would get the country out of many tricky situations to come.
  4. Require presidents to disclose their tax information (macro/micro): While this solution may seem big picture and macro, it is actually very personalized and would help the president to become more transparent regarding their background in corruption and fraud. In the spring of 2017 (CNN), Trump and his administration defied a subpoena on his tax returns, drawing similarities to when Nixon defied a subpoena on his oval office tapes. Not only does looking into tax returns alert the public of potential corruption in the president’s past, but it eliminates the possibility of having court vs president subpoena battles. One person releasing their tax returns should not be over thought as this move will only benefit America.
  5. Reading and watching the news/ journalism (micro): Although it may not seem to make a difference, reading journalistic news reports exposing corruption particularly in the oval office is extremely important, and the people who write these articles displaying and revealing the true nature of our nation’s leaders are democratic heroes. “The media can play a paramount role in exposing corruption and initiating legal, political, and penal action against it” (Schauseil). Even if you simply read an article detailing a moment of presidential corruption that Trump has committed, the idea that Trump is corrupt has been placed in your head, and now you might potentially try to rally change.
  6. Activism (micro): If you have read the news, and believe that your leader is corrupt, one thing that you yourself can do that can actually make a huge difference is to stand up for what you believe in and try to create change. Calling your congressman/woman or perhaps even one of your senators, will maybe initiate them to make large scale reforms, because of you.

If we all tell ourselves to do one little thing here and there to make a difference, we can create a better, corruption free America. Please use my plan, or your own to get involved in preventing political corruption.

If you would like to check out the main  anti-corruption resource that fueled my solutions, here is Elizabeth Warren’s anti-corruption plan.

You can also check out my full analysis of the present day problem and what we can do here.

Comments:

Please leave meaningful feedback and suggestions in the comment section!

Works consulted:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/15CfbG30brff6VwkSFlbYKDYGzazg3doBVE-iMU2H6BY/edit

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COMMENTS: 6
  1. April 25, 2020 by Jack

    Great web-page Ben!
    The comparison between Nixon and Trump was really intriguing to me, and the graph you included was a nice visual representation of the contrast between the two situations. I particularly enjoyed your macro solutions, which seem reasonable and effective. Moving the Justice Department to the Judicial Branch seems like a really good idea, and I agree that it could be very helpful in fighting corruption in the oval office.
    Jack

    • April 25, 2020 by Benjamin

      Thanks for the comment Jack. I’m glad you enjoyed!

  2. April 27, 2020 by Rojan Naimi

    Hi Ben! I live in California and am also currently really not happy with our current government so I was really drawn to your project and I wanted to hear your ideas. Seeing the comparison of Trump to Nixon was really crazy and shows how drastic and insane our current situation is. I really like how you talked about the topic of revealing more evidence, and it’s crazy that he wasn’t removed from office due to “lack of evidence” considering one of his charges was obstruction of inquiry. I’m so glad you decided to use your project to educate more people about this issue. Great job!

  3. April 27, 2020 by Courtney G Roach

    I agree jack! I had never thought about it in that way and it was very eye opening. Thanks for sharing, great piece Ben!
    Courtney

  4. April 27, 2020 by Sides

    Awesome page! I loved reading all about this during this time because I feel like all we are watching now is presidential debates. Thank you for all of your insite in and input into this very important topic during this time!

  5. April 28, 2020 by Richard

    This is awesome research!!! As an international student, I never thought of the political problems in the American government but this page provides me new perspectives about this world’s most powerful country’s government.

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