American democracy is under enormous pressure with the unwritten norms central to our constitutional order have come under threat. Polarization and brinkmanship have worsened exponentially since President Trump’s inauguration. Public officials have flouted ethics rules, politicized and even hidden government data and science, and attempted to interfere with law enforcement investigations for personal or partisan gain. Systemic faults in American governance have been exposed.

In response, concrete solutions are needed to restore trust in government, balance among the separate branches of government, and accountability to the people who public officials serve.

 
 
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To develop this agenda, the National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy was launched by the Brennan Center in January 2018. This  nonpartisan initiative is led by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and former New Jersey Governor and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

Over the past year and a half, the Task Force worked to identify consensus-building solutions to:

  • Strengthen ethics and conflicts of interest laws

  • Prevent inappropriate interference in law enforcement and the courts

  • Protect politically motivated manipulation and suppression of government research and data

  • Support the appointment of appropriate and qualified public officials

The Task Force’s reports provide a comprehensive reform agenda, outlining a number of proposals intended to relieve the pressures currently threatening our democratic institutions.

 
 

Proposals for Reform 

This isn’t the first time our system has been tested. What we learned – and what we must do now, from the National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy

The Brennan Center will update this website with additional information and resources. Sign up for our newsletter for the latest updates and donate here. For press requests, please reach out to Alexandra Ringe or Rebecca Autrey.

 
 

TASK FORCE MEMBERS

 
 
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Preet Bharara, Co-Chair

Preet Bharara is an American lawyer who served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York from 2009 to 2017. His office prosecuted cases involving terrorism, narcotics and arms trafficking, financial and health-care fraud, cybercrime, public corruption, gang violence, organized crime, and civil rights violations. In 2012, Bharara was featured on Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World.” On April 1, 2017, Bharara joined the NYU School of Law faculty as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence. He is Executive Vice President at Some Spider Studios, where he hosts a CAFE podcast, Stay Tuned, focused on questions of justice and fairness. He is also the author of a top-five New York Times bestselling book, Doing Justice: A Prosecutor’s Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law.
 


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Christine Todd Whitman,  Co-Chair

Christine Todd Whitman is President of the Whitman Strategy Group, a consulting firm specializing in environmental and energy issues. She served in the cabinet of President George W. Bush as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2001 to 2003, and was Governor of New Jersey from 1994 to 2001. During her time in government, she gained bipartisan support and was widely praised for championing common-sense environmental improvements. Gov. Whitman is involved in numerous national nonprofit organizations focused on legal and environmental causes, including the American Security Project and the O’Connor Judicial Selection Advisory Committee at the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System. She is a graduate of Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.
 


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Mike Castle

Mike Castle is a former two-term governor, nine-term member of Congress, lieutenant governor, deputy attorney general, and state senator of his home state of Delaware. Recently retired from the law firm DLA Piper, Gov. Castle served on the Financial Services, Intelligence, and Education and Workforce Committees during his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, and also led a number of congressional caucuses. Since leaving office in January 2011, he has been honored by the Delaware Chamber of Commerce and the University of Delaware, and politicians of both parties have heralded Gov. Castle as a bipartisan leader. As a partner at DLA Piper, he worked on financial issues, international trade, legislative affairs, and health care. He is the Board Chair for Research!America. He received his B.A. from Hamilton College and his J.D. from Georgetown University


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Christopher Edley, Jr.

Christopher Edley, Jr. is the Honorable William H. Orrick, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law at UC Berkeley School of Law, after serving as dean from 2004 through 2013. Before Berkeley, he was a professor at Harvard Law School for 23 years and cofounded the Harvard Civil Rights Project. Prof. Edley co-chaired the congressionally chartered National Commission on Education Equity and Excellence from 2011 to 2013. He served in White House policy and budget positions under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, held senior positions in five presidential campaigns, and worked on two presidential transitions. He is a fellow or member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, the National Academy of Public Administration, the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Law Institute, the advisory board of the Hamilton Project, the Brookings Institution, and the board of Inequality Media. As a National Associate of the National Research Council, he recently chaired committees to evaluate National Assessment of Educational Progress performance standards and design a national system of education equity indicators. Prof. Edley is a graduate of Swarthmore College, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard Law School.


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Chuck Hagel

Chuck Hagel served as the 24th Secretary of Defense from 2013 to 2015. He is the only Vietnam veteran and enlisted combat veteran to serve as Secretary of Defense. He represented the state of Nebraska in the U.S. Senate from 1997 to 2009. In the Senate, Sec. Hagel was a senior member of the Foreign Relations; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; and Intelligence Committees. Previously, Sec. Hagel was Co-Chairman of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, a Distinguished Professor at Georgetown University, Chairman of the Atlantic Council, Chairman of the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration Advisory Committee, Co-Chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund Corporate Council, President and CEO of the USO, and Deputy Administrator of the Veterans Administration. He currently serves on the RAND Board of Trustees, PBS Board, Corsair Capital Advisory Board, and American Security Project Board, and is a Senior Advisor to Gallup. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.


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David Iglesias

David Iglesias is Director of the Wheaton Center for Faith, Politics and Economics and is the Jean & E. Floyd Kvamme Associate Professor of Politics and Law at Wheaton College. Previously, Prof. Iglesias served as a prosecutor focusing on national security and terrorism cases. He was the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico from 2001 to 2007. Prof. Iglesias was recalled to active duty status between 2008 and 2014 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He served as a team leader, senior prosecutor, and spokesman with the U.S. Military Commissions, handling war crimes and terrorism cases. He retired from the U.S. Navy as a Captain. Prof. Iglesias received his bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and his J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law.


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Amy Comstock Rick

Amy Comstock Rick is the President and CEO of the Food and Drug Law Institute, and was previously the CEO of the Parkinson’s Action Network. Prior to becoming a nonprofit and health leader, Ms. Rick served as the Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (2000–2003) and as an Associate Counsel to the President in the White House Counsel’s Office (1998–2000). She also served as a career attorney at the U.S. Department of Education, including as the Department’s Assistant General Counsel for Ethics. Ms. Rick has also served as President of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, and as a board member of Research!America, the National Health Council, and the American Brain Coalition. She received her bachelor’s degree from Bard College and J.D. from the University of Michigan.


 
 
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Donald B. Verrilli, Jr.

Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. is a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, and the founder of its Washington, D.C., office. He served as Solicitor General of the United States from June 2011 to June 2016. During that time, he was responsible for representing the U.S. government in all appellate matters before the Supreme Court and in the courts of appeals, and was a legal adviser to President Barack Obama and the Attorney General. Earlier, he served as Deputy White House Counsel and as Associate Deputy Attorney General in the U.S. Department of Justice. He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., and the Honorable J. Skelly Wright on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He received his B.A. from Yale University and J.D. from Columbia Law School.

 

In the News

 
 

Chicago Tribune: I was fired for doing my job. Congress should make sure Mueller isn’t dumped for the same reason. (Op-ed by David Iglesias)

That’s why — as part of the bipartisan National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy — my colleagues and I have proposed that Congress immediately pass the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, bipartisan legislation intended to protect the special counsel from improper removal that was voted favorably out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in April.

USA Today: How to prevent corruption, protect the rule of law and repair democracy (Op-ed by Preet Bharara and Gov. Christine Todd Whitman)

We need to stop careening from crisis to crisis, adopt new rules and laws, and restore faith in American ethics and government for the long haul.

Lawfare: The Unintended Consequences of Enshrining Norms in Law

Experienced and thoughtful observers of government have increasingly come to conclude that new laws are needed where the norms no longer do the work. As part of this effort, New York University’s Brennan Center convened a Task Force on the Rule of Law and Democracy, co-chaired by former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara and former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, to develop a package of new legal requirements.

Washington Post: Three very positive signs for democracy

The National Task Force on Rule of Law & Democracy, led by such figures as former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara, former Republican New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman and former Delaware senator Mike Castle (also a Republican), has put out a batch of ideas ranging from disclosure of presidents’ and vice presidents’ tax returns to legislative enforcement of the emoluments clause to reform of the Office of Government Ethics (giving it power to investigate and punish ethics violations).

The Hill: The importance of independent, unbiased data (Op-ed by Gov. Christine Todd Whitman)

The American public deserves to have access to the facts — and should trust that government officials are using good data to make policy decisions. Democratic accountability requires the dissemination of accurate information so that the public can evaluate the quality of decisions made by government officials.

Trump abuses show we must turn traditions into laws: Bharara and Whitman

It’s not enough to fret. We're launching a bipartisan project to mend the gaps in our system and make sure our government is competent and trustworthy.

Stay Tuned with Preet! Let's Save Democracy (with Christine Todd Whitman)

Christine Todd Whitman is the former governor of New Jersey and the EPA Administrator under George W. Bush. Now she's co-chairing the Democracy Taskforce with Preet. They discuss what it's like to disagree with the President while you're in cabinet and the struggle of being a moderate Republican in 2018.

Vox: Preet Bharara’s latest mission is to turn presidential norms into law

It’s taking the lessons and transgressions noted on the part of this administration and preventing those things from happening again in the future.

The Hill: Trump critics launch democracy task force

Task force to battle the erosion of American values in politics and government, and undo the tone of anger and hate of current administration.

NJ Spotlight: Former NJ Gov Whitman to Chair National Task Force to Fix U.S. Democracy

Task force to battle the erosion of American values in politics and government, and undo the tone of anger and hate of current administration.