Biden directs federal agencies to up their anti-corruption game

The pres­i­dent released a nation­al secu­ri­ty study mem­o­ran­dum to push the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to focus on the glob­al anti-cor­rup­tion fight.

President Joe Biden is for­mal­ly direct­ing fed­er­al depart­ments and agen­cies to make fight­ing glob­al cor­rup­tion a priority.

The pres­i­dent on Thursday issued a “nation­al secu­ri­ty study mem­o­ran­dum“ that directs the U.S. gov­ern­ment to send to him in 200 days a report and rec­om­men­da­tions on how the United States can bet­ter use its resources and part­ner with oth­er coun­tries to bat­tle cor­rup­tion. Advertisement

In a state­ment accom­pa­ny­ing the direc­tive, Biden said cor­rup­tion “makes gov­ern­ment less effec­tive,“ “exac­er­bates inequal­i­ties” and “attacks the foun­da­tions of demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions.” “Fighting cor­rup­tion is not just good gov­er­nance. It is self-defense. It is patri­o­tism, and it’s essen­tial to the preser­va­tion of our democ­ra­cy and our future,” Biden said.

Biden has said the United States needs to pro­mote, strength­en and defend democ­ra­cy against author­i­tar­i­an sys­tems like the ones in China and Russia. He and his aides argue that cor­rup­tion ham­pers the U.S. and its demo­c­ra­t­ic allies in that fight. That could include, for instance, if a rival gov­ern­ment fun­nels mon­ey from oli­garchs in ways that inter­fere with U.S. elections.

Biden aides hope the mere process of respond­ing to Biden’s mem­o­ran­dum will lead to a flur­ry of ideas and pos­si­bly even imple­men­ta­tion of ini­tia­tives that can help in the anti-cor­rup­tion fight well before the 200-day dead­line for the report and recommendations.

With the mem­o­ran­dum, the pres­i­dent is for­mal­ly estab­lish­ing the fight against cor­rup­tion as a core nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­est of the United States,” a senior Biden admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial said.

Among the administration’s goals is crack­ing down on efforts to laun­der mon­ey through res­i­den­tial real estate pur­chas­es in the United States. The mem­o­ran­dum also speaks in vague terms about pro­mot­ing efforts to ”sup­port and strength­en the capac­i­ty of civ­il soci­ety, media, and oth­er over­sight and account­abil­i­ty actors to con­duct research and analy­sis on cor­rup­tion trends.”

The Biden admin­is­tra­tion already has used exist­ing legal mech­a­nisms to impose cor­rup­tion-relat­ed sanc­tions on var­i­ous for­eign indi­vid­u­als and entities.

On Wednesday, the admin­is­tra­tion imposed sanc­tions on three Bulgarians as well as more than 60 enti­ties in their net­works. The Treasury Department accused the Bulgarians of “abus­ing pub­lic insti­tu­tions for prof­it.” The sanc­tions cut off the indi­vid­u­als’ and their com­pa­nies’ access to the American finan­cial system. By NAHAL TOOSI

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