Democrats target alleged Trump corruption ahead of midterms: 'The swamp has never been more foul'

  • Democrats release a package of proposals in part to target allegations of corruption by President Donald Trump and his advisors.
  • Party leaders also say they will push to protect voting rights and reduce the role of money in politics as part of the platform.
  • The measures are part of the package Democrats are touting as they try to win enough seats to take control of at least one chamber of Congress following November's midterm elections.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Democrats rolled out a package of policies Monday targeting alleged corruption by President Donald Trump and his advisors, part of a push to take control of at least one chamber of Congress later this year.

Party leaders unveiled the proposals Monday afternoon as a piece of the "Better Deal" platform they are promoting during the campaign for November's midterm elections. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, among other Democrats, announced plans to boost ethics laws, reduce the influence of money in American politics and expand access to the ballot box.

Ahead of the critical elections, Democrats are taking aim at a Trump administration hounded by accusations of using public office for private gain and recklessly spending taxpayer money. Critics have seized on numerous practices as evidence of ethical lapses within the Trump administration. Those actions include questionable spending by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and other Cabinet officials, and Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's apparent efforts to cash in on his proximity to the president.

"President Trump when it comes to draining the swamp has been a complete and total disappointment," Schumer said Monday afternoon. "President Trump has embraced the most egregious establishment Republican norms and appointed the most conflict-of-interest ridden Cabinet in my lifetime. The swamp has never been more foul or more fetid than under this president."

Last year, Democratic leaders unveiled the first part of their wide-ranging platform, including proposals to lower drug prices, boost job training programs and more closely scrutinize corporate mergers. They hope those efforts — combined with messaging casting the GOP tax law as a boon to companies at the expense of workers — will help them flip the 23 Republican seats needed to win the House in November. The Senate map this year favors the GOP, and more than 20 Democrats will fight to hold on to their seats in that chamber.

The platform takes aim at Trump — who ran on a promise to "drain the swamp" of corruption — and tries to show he has abandoned the pledge and only heightened the ethical problems in Washington, according to a Democratic aide. The party is also setting its sights on congressional Republicans, whom Democrats will cast as having passed the tax overhaul in December because they are beholden to corporations and donors, the aide said.

On Monday, Pelosi summarized the party argument by saying Trump has "become the swamp."

"The American people deserve better, but Republicans are standing in the way. We want Republicans and their corrupt big donor agenda to get out of the way," Pelosi said.

In a statement, Republican National Committee spokesman Steve Guest called the platform "ironic" after the Democratic Party nominated Hillary Clinton, whom he called "one of the most corrupt politicians in history," for president in 2016.

"In the meantime, President Trump and Republicans will continue to deliver a stronger economy for all Americans, no thanks to obstructionist Democrats," Guest added.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request to comment on charges of unethical conduct by Trump administration officials.

The Democratic proposals target three areas, according to a summary of the platform:

  • Voting rights: Party leaders call for efforts at the congressional level to protect voting rights. The plan pushes for Congress to set up independent, nonpartisan panels to undo partisan drawing of congressional districts, which can heavily affect representation in Congress. The party also wants to pursue automatic voter registration and give states more resources to protect election equipment, such as voting machines. Election security has become a bigger priority following reported Russian efforts to target voting systems during the 2016 election.
  • Ethical standards: The proposals call for tougher ethical standards on elected officials including Trump and members of Congress. The president has faced scrutiny for potential conflicts of interest, including the tendency of political entities and even foreign governments to book events at his Washington hotel. Democrats also call for better regulation of lobbyists and others trying to cash in on their influence. The party aims, for instance, to make lobbying registration requirements more stringent and strengthen bribery laws, according to the Democratic aide. Under the Democratic proposal, Cohen would have had to register as a lobbyist when he received payments from companies such as AT&T and Novartis, the aide said.
  • Campaign finance: The plan calls for more stringent enforcement of campaign finance laws and tighter regulation of money flowing to political causes. Democrats are pushing for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which removed nearly all restraints on companies spending money for political causes. While running with only the support of small-dollar donors has gained support among Democrats in recent years, many Democrats still benefit from the torrent of big money into politics.

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