National Press Club

Sen. Warren pushes anti-corruption proposals, ducks question on Trump impeachment

August 21, 2018 | By Wesley G. Pippert | PippertW@missouri.edu

Sen. Elizabeth Warren makes a point at National Press Club Headliners Newsmaker event Aug. 21

Sen. Elizabeth Warren makes a point at National Press Club Headliners Newsmaker event Aug. 21

Photo/Image: Al Teich

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., laid out what she called “the most ambitious anti-corruption legislation proposed since Watergate" at the National Press Club Aug. 21, yet could not avoid reporters' questions about President Trump and her own plans for the 2020 presidential campaign.

In the final question at the Headliners Newsmaker event, former Club President Angela Greiling Keane, who moderated, asked how Warren felt about any impeachment proceedings against Trump. "I take this very seriously," Warren said, not answering directly. "My No. 1 goal is to make sure [special counsel Richard] Mueller finishes his investigation with no interference."

Just before that question, Simon Ateba, of Today News Africa, asked Warren whether she was running for president in 2020.

"I am not running for president in 2020," she said, adding that she was running for reelection to the Senate. “The really important fight is the mid-term elections [in November]. I'm focused on it. Who represents us is powerfully important."

Warren, who last spoke at the Club in 2016, proposed a lifetime ban on lobbying by presidents, members of Congress, federal judges and cabinet secretaries. She would ban individual stock ownership by the same officials while they were in office.

In addition, she would ban direct political donations by lobbyists to candidates or members of Congress. And she would establish a new and independent U.S. Office of Public Integrity and strengthen the U.S. Office of Congressional Ethics.

"Our national crisis of faith in government boils down to this simple fact: people don't trust their government to do the right thing because they think government works for the rich, the powerful and the well-connected and not for the American people," Warren said. "They're right."

"This problem," she said, "is far bigger than Trump."

But Warren did finger one person: Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a brain child of Warren, has taken steps to weaken CFPB's enforcement powers. Warren said that Mulvaney told a roomful of bankers that when he was in Congress, "if a lobbyist didn't give him money, the lobbyist didn't get a meeting -- he met only with those lobbyists who ponied up for his campaign war chest."

"Our government is putting the wealthy and well-connected over the people," Warren said. "People understand this government is not working for them."

In advancing her anti-corruption proposals, she said she would work in a bipartisan way. "I'm taking it everywhere -- both sides of the aisle," she said.

Opening the questioning, Keane asked Warren why, "given the current political environment,"she was optimistic about the chances of her proposals.

"It's the American people," Warren replied. She said she heard Trump "dark speech" at his inauguration and then “pick his first fight" over the size of the inaugural crowd. She said she went back to Massachusetts and asked herself,"What can we do?”

The next morning, she said, she watched “the biggest protest rally” in Washington and then others spring up "all across this country." Since then, she added, "we have watched [the rallies]grow more and more."