Chairman Nadler Remarks at Press Conference on the Protecting Our Democracy Act
Washington, September 21, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following remarks at a press conference announcing the introduction of the Protecting Our Democracy Act, a sweeping set of democratic reforms to protect against presidential corruption and abuses of power:
"I want to thank Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Schiff, and the other distinguished Chairs for their leadership in putting together the critical set of reforms contained in the Protecting Our Democracy Act.
"Transparency and accountability are the bedrock of our democratic system. They are the essential guardrails that protect against unchecked executive power, but recent experience has uncovered weaknesses that point to the desperate need for reform in these areas.
"Although many of these reforms were informed by our experience with the prior Administration, they are forward-looking, and they protect against abuses by any president of any party. Importantly, many of them are also based on proposals that have bipartisan support.
"Over the course of its oversight responsibilities, the Judiciary Committee has uncovered several areas in which reform is urgently needed.
"For example, Justice Department policy holds that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted—no matter how serious the crimes he or she may have committed. And when the President leaves office—particularly if they have served two terms—in many cases the statute of limitations will have run on their crimes, and they will be immune from prosecution. In effect, this policy has turned the presidency into a get-out-of-jail-free card.
"That is why we included my legislation, the 'No President is Above the Law Act,' which would toll the statute of limitations while a president is in office, so that prosecutors could consider prosecutions after their term is over.
"In the prior Administration, we witnessed blatant interference with pending criminal cases at the DOJ, on matters that directly implicate the President, such as the Roger Stone sentencing, the Michael Flynn prosecution, and the Russia investigation. This is why we included Chairman Jeffries’ legislation to require that the Attorney General maintain a log of certain contacts with the White House for review by the Inspector General, and where necessary, by Congress.
"Another vital provision in this bill would strengthen Congress’s ability to enforce its subpoenas. Although the Executive Branch and Congress can and should usually resolve oversight disputes through a process of good faith negotiation and compromise, there are times when Congress must sue to enforce its rights in court. But, today, an Administration intent on stonewalling Congress can be rewarded by a cumbersome court process that enables the Administration to simply run out the clock and to avoid any meaningful oversight. This is an invitation to unchecked executive power and abuse.
"That is why the Protecting Our Democracy Act incorporates legislation by Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, which provides an expedited, streamlined process for the House and Senate to enforce their subpoenas in the courts to ensure that we can conduct proper oversight.
"When the nation’s founders wrote the Constitution, after having just fought a war against a tyrant, they stood fast to a key principle—that the Executive must not be a king and must, instead, be accountable to Congress, to the people, and ultimately, to the rule of law. It is vital that we reassert this important principle."I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Protecting Our Democracy Act so that we may restore these and other checks and balances that are so fundamental to our democracy."