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Watergate Led to Reforms. Now, Would-Be Reformers Believe, So Will Trump.

Among their ideas:

  • Revise the authorization of force passed after Sept. 11, 2001, to prohibit humanitarian military intervention without additional votes by Congress and limit the use of nuclear weapons to self-defense in extreme circumstances.

  • Ensure that the attorney general makes decisions on prosecutions involving the president or presidential campaigns, not the F.B.I. director, as happened during the Hillary Clinton email case.

Mr. Bauer and Mr. Goldsmith are an unlikely tandem. They got to know each other when Mr. Bauer invited Mr. Goldsmith to speak to his class at New York University School of Law and they debated the merits of the Obama and Bush administrations. They found that they shared a common concern for what they see as the consequences of the Trump presidency, prompting development of these proposals.

The historical precedent traces back to the 1970s when Congress responded to Vietnam, Watergate and C.I.A. revelations with a raft of legislation, including the War Powers Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Privacy Act, the Inspector General Act, the Civil Service Reform Act, the Presidential Records Act, the Ethics in Government Act that provided for independent counsels and updated versions of the Federal Election Campaign Act and Freedom of Information Act.

The intent was to curb abuses like those under President Richard M. Nixon and make government and political campaigns more accountable. Not all of them worked as hoped; the campaign finance system created at the time has been warped by court rulings, creative legal interpretations and the collapse of public financing, while the Independent Counsel Act lapsed after Iran-contra and Whitewater investigations soured Republicans and Democrats alike.

One area where Mr. Bauer and Mr. Goldsmith disagreed may presage a larger debate if Mr. Trump loses — whether he should be prosecuted. In that, too, there is a 1970s precedent in President Gerald R. Ford’s decision to pardon Mr. Nixon rather than have a former president stand trial, an act that may have cost Mr. Ford the 1976 election but has since won him praise as an act of courage in the national interest.

Mr. Goldsmith argued that investigations of any actions by Mr. Trump that occurred before he became president should be allowed to continue but warned against criminal prosecution of acts that he took while in office.

“I just think it’s going to make everything worse for everyone on balance,” he said. “It will continue to be a spectacle. It will consume the next administration. It will not be easy to pull off. It will look politicized.” And, he added, it would set “a terrible precedent for the country” by encouraging the expectation that a new administration would routinely investigate its predecessor.

Mr. Bauer acknowledged the point. “We wouldn’t want anyone to have the impression that this was victor’s justice or vigilante justice or anything like that,” he said. But he argued that any investigation of Mr. Trump should be allowed to work its way toward a conclusion and only then, after the facts have been established, should the next president consider a pardon or commutation.

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