WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Elizabeth Warren called Tuesday for sweeping anti-corruption laws in Washington, including a lifetime ban on presidents, members of Congress and other officeholders from working as lobbyists. But even as she assailed members of President Donald Trump’s administration, the Massachusetts Democrat refused to confirm or rule out her own run for president.
“I am not running for president in 2020,” Warren told the National Press Club, which doesn’t mean she won’t be. “I’m running for the Senate in 2018.”
But it was clear that Warren’s pitch was a salvo in defining what she wants the party to stand for when Democrats nationally are struggling to find a leader and a message beyond their hostility toward Trump. Ahead stand the November midterm elections in which Trump and the GOP are defending their majorities in the House and Senate. The 2020 presidential race effectively begins after that.
The two have been trading long-distance barbs for years. She, a former Harvard law professor, calls him a bully. He, a real estate magnate and former reality star, nicknamed her “Pocahantas” for saying she’s got Native American ancestry.
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It’s far from clear that Warren has a viable constituency outside Massachusetts, or that her legislation has much support in the Senate.
The proposal would impose a lifetime ban on lobbying across senior levels of all three branches of government, starting with presidents, vice presidents, members of Congress, federal judges and Cabinet secretaries. It would also ban other federal employees from lobbying their former office, department, house of Congress or agency for years.
Current lobbyists, meanwhile, would be barred from taking government jobs for extended periods of time after lobbying. She also would force federal appellate courts to livestream audio of their proceedings and establish an independent office of public integrity that would have new investigative and disciplinary powers.
Like other potential presidential candidates, Warren is traveling the country campaigning for Democrats running in 2018 even as she runs for her own second Senate term. Doing so gets her in position to gauge enthusiasm and fundraising power should she decide to run for president in 2020.
Warren on Tuesday suggested the first step is restoring public trust in the government after decades of cash-for-power conduct controlled, she said, by “the wealthy and well-connected.”
“There’s no real question that the Trump era has given us the most nakedly corrupt leadership this nation has seen in our lifetimes,” Warren said. “But they are not the cause of the rot. They’re just the biggest, stinkiest example of it.”
Of lawmakers, she said: “They can put their savings in conflict-free investments like mutual funds or they can pick a different line of work.”