Brianne Gorod

  • June 14, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on Take Care

    by Brianne Gorod, Chief Counsel, Constitutional Accountability Center

    When President Trump took the oath of office, he swore to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution of the United States. Yet since he took that oath, he has been flagrantly violating a critical provision of the Constitution that was designed to ensure that the nation’s leaders would always put the national interest above their personal self-interest.      

    Today, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Rep. John Conyers, and 194 other members of Congress have gone to federal court seeking to put an end to the president’s willful violations of the Constitution. We, at the Constitutional Accountability Center, are proud to represent them in this effort. 

    When the nation’s Founders came together to draft a new national charter, they were profoundly concerned about both corruption of federal officeholders and foreign influence over the nation. They understood what a threat corruption posed and they worried that foreign nations might attempt to meddle in America’s affairs, including by giving benefits to the nation’s chief executive to subvert his loyalties. 

    In response to those concerns, the Founders included in the Constitution the Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prohibits any person “holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States]” from “accept[ing] . . . any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State” without “the consent of the Congress.”  Although there has been a great deal of talk about this Clause since Donald Trump’s election, there has been much less talk about five of its most important words: “the consent of the Congress.” 

  • January 11, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Brianne J. Gorod, Chief Counsel for the Constitutional Accountability Center

    The Senate is conducting a confirmation hearing blitz this week and next for 10 of President-elect Donald Trump’s announced Cabinet-level choices. The dizzying speed and compressed time in which these hearings are being held is troubling enough to those who prefer more thoughtful deliberation of anyone who, if confirmed, would wield great power. Worse - because we do not know the extent of the president-elect’s holdings and he has refused to sell his business and put the assets in a blind trust - his nominees could place their boss’s private business interests ahead of their duty to protect the national interest.

    As he appoints agency heads throughout the federal government, Trump is or will be choosing people to lead agencies that not only are investigating or could investigate his businesses, but also that could enrich them. That is why the Senate’s constitutional duty of “advice and consent” is so important: it is supposed to help ensure that nominees can be trusted to work in the interest of the public, not in the interest of the man advancing their careers.

    Of course, the Senate cannot provide informed “advice and consent” without a full picture of the potential conflicts. And it cannot know that full picture unless Trump fully discloses his debts and assets. As if Trump’s imminent collision with the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses were not enough, this additional possibility of conflict is a significant reason why Trump should release his tax returns, sell his businesses and place an independent trustee in charge of a blind trust.

    The U.S. Constitution provides that the president, and the president alone, nominates the heads of federal agencies and other top federal officers. Each executive branch officer will swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution.” Unless Trump sells his businesses, he will test the strength and independence of each appointee to avoid decisions designed to serve the president’s private interests.

  • September 16, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Brianne Gorod, Appellate Counsel, Constitutional Accountability Center

    *This post is part of ACSblog’s 2015 Constitution Day Symposium.

    On September 17, 1787, the nation’s Framers signed their names to the new national charter they had just drafted -- what would become the United States Constitution.  And so each September we celebrate this important anniversary, marking the day when our Founding Fathers signed the document that gave birth to our system of government and has governed our country in the more than 200 years since. 

    But as we celebrate this significant anniversary, we should also remember the many other anniversaries that are an important part of our Constitution’s story—anniversaries of the constitutional amendments that have helped to fully realize the Framers’ goal, made explicit in the document itself, to “establish Justice,” to “promote the general Welfare,” and “to form a more perfect Union.”  Among other things, these amendments are what prohibit the government from interfering with our freedom of speech; they are what protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures; and they are what guarantee that all persons are equal under the law.

    The Constitution we celebrate today and this week is as much a product of these anniversaries as it is the one that we mark by celebrating Constitution Week.  And that is why it is so important to remember that our nation’s constitutional history did not end in September 1787, or even when that original document was ratified by New Hampshire (the ninth state to do so) and became officially established the following year. 

    The importance of our continuing constitutional story is sometimes ignored even by those who should most remember it—the members of the Supreme Court who have foremost authority and responsibility for interpreting the Constitution and for “say[ing] what the Law is.”  Two years ago, for example, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, concluding that the “‘Act imposes current burdens’” and could not “‘be justified by current needs.’”  Writing for the Court’s conservative bloc, Chief Justice Roberts gave astonishingly short shrift to the Fifteenth Amendment, the one that guarantees the fundamental right to vote and gives Congress the authority to enact laws, like the VRA, designed to enforce that right.  Reading the Court’s opinion and its lengthy discussion of state sovereignty, one might almost be forgiven for concluding that our country’s constitutional history ended long before the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment.  But, of course, it did not.

  • November 13, 2014
    Judging Statutes
    Robert A. Katzmann

    by Brianne Gorod (@BrianneGorod), Appellate Counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center and former clerk for the Hon. Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Gorod interviewed Katzmann about his new book, Judging Statues.

    The Supreme Court made lots of headlines recently when it decided to hear King v. Burwell, a case about the meaning of the Affordable Care Act.  It’s a good reminder: although much of the talk about the federal courts focuses on constitutional questions, much of the work the federal courts do involves statutory ones.  Indeed, for Supreme Court justices and other federal judges, a significant part of their job—and an incredibly important part—is attempting to understand and give meaning to the laws passed by Congress. 

    In his new book Judging Statutes, Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, provides readers with insight into how federal judges can—and should—go about that task.  As Judge Katzmann explains, “[o]ver the last twenty-five years, there has been a spirited debate in the courts, Congress, and the academy about how to interpret federal statutes,” with Justice Scalia championing the view that courts should “look to . . . the words of the statute, and to virtually nothing else.”  In his book, Judge Katzmann provides a compelling defense of the alternative view, arguing that courts should look to legislative history to help understand and give meaning to the laws that Congress enacts.  As he puts it, “In our constitutional system in which Congress, the people’s branch, is charged with enacting laws, how Congress makes its purposes known—through text and reliable accompanying materials—should be respected, lest the integrity of legislation be undermined.”

    The work has already received considerable attention—for example, in Justice Stevens’ essay in The New York Review of Books, Jeffrey Toobin’s column in The New Yorker, Norman Ornstein’s column in The Atlantic, Tony Mauro’s story in the National Law Journal, Ronald Collins’ post on the blog Concurring Opinions, and on Brian Lamb’s C-Span Q & A program.   

  • September 25, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    The Constitutional Accountability Center offers a review of Chief Justice John Roberts’ tenure on the Court with an introductory chapter penned by Brianne Gorod.

    Amy Davidson argues in The New Yorker that Democrats should stop focusing on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s retirement.  

    Geoffrey R. Stone finds evidence of a more politically polarized Supreme Court in The Huffington Post.

    In Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson profiles the Koch brothers and how they acquired both their fortune and political influence.

    The Editorial Board of The New York Times decries the long lines at polling places in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, arguing that these areas are systematically deprived of resources.