Jack Goldsmith

Lawfare: Where is the Biden Administration on Presidential Reform?

November 30, 2021

Presidential Reform Project co-chair Jack Goldsmith wrote the following article in Lawfare in which he analyzes why presidential reform is vital for American democracy. He goes on to discuss actions the Biden administration can take to achieve some of those reforms.

The case for comprehensive reform is straightforward. President Donald Trump, building in some instances on the practices of his predecessors, exposed gaps and weaknesses in the law and norms that had governed the presidency since the great reforms of the 1970s. The Biden administration appeared to present a unique opportunity for contemporary reform. Most presidential administrations would reflexively oppose new restraints on the presidency. But Biden had served thirty-six years in the Senate, understood the need for checks on the presidency, and seemed to support new restrictions on the presidency.

And yet the administration has done little to achieve urgently needed reforms. It issued a contacts policy to govern relationships between the White House and federal agencies, especially the Justice Department. But every administration since the Ford administration, including the Trump administration, had done this, and Biden’s policy, while sound, was not materially different from many of its predecessors. It also issued an executive order on ethics that was in most respects an improvement over Trump’s order and a return to the Obama administration’s position. Neither of these policies amount to reform of the presidency.

Keep reading at Lawfare.