TRUMP’S TYRAN­NI­CAL BLUS­TER ABOUT EMER­GENCY

The Gulf Today - - FOCUS - BY IVAN ELAND

Al­though Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­dency has not yet been cat­a­strophic, there has al­ways been much po­ten­tial dan­ger from the ill-in­formed and mer­cu­rial chief ex­ec­u­tive.

Al­though most econ­o­mists would have prob­lems with stran­gling much­needed im­mi­gra­tion, start­ing a trade war with China and other na­tions, and cut­ting taxes but in­creas­ing spend­ing, no mat­ter whether the econ­omy al­ready WAS GROW­ING WELL OR NOT (A INE TRA­DI­TION for ev­ery Repub­li­can pres­i­dent, ex­cept Ge­orge H. W. Bush, go­ing back to Richard Nixon), Trump laud­ably has made noises about re­duc­ing the num­ber of troops in some of the many US war zones over­seas.

Yet the real dan­ger of the Trump pres­i­dency — his ten­dency to­ward an au­thor­i­tar­ian abuse of power — was re­cently ap­par­ent in his threat to de­clare a na­tional emer­gency and have the US mil­i­tary build the bor­der wall, de­spite the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ re­fusal to give him money for it.

Since World War II, the Amer­i­can pres­i­dency has be­come too pow­er­ful com­pared to the orig­i­nal plan laid out in the Con­sti­tu­tion by the na­tion’s founders, and other re­cent pres­i­dents have used the un­con­sti­tu­tional “I must act, be­cause Con­gress won’t” ar­gu­ment — Obama did so by an ex­ec­u­tive or­der pro­tect­ing DACA kids — but Trump has en­gaged in other au­to­cratic blus­ter that seems to make his threat of na­tional emer­gency even scarier.

For ex­am­ple, Trump has re­peat­edly bashed the news me­dia, even threat­en­ing to pull NBC’S nonex­is­tent “li­cense” and em­ploy­ing the Stal­in­ist phrase “en­emy of the peo­ple” against them.

He has also threat­ened to pros­e­cute op­po­nents, such as Hillary Clin­ton and for­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey, and has purged law en­force­ment per­son­nel who were in­ves­ti­gat­ing him.

Fi­nally, he seems to have com­mit­ted ob­struc­tion of jus­tice and wit­ness TAM­PER­ING BY SUCH IRINGS AND PUB­LIC state­ments to and the dan­gling of self-serv­ing par­dons to in­dicted per­sons con­nected to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sian elec­tion tam­per­ing.

So when Don­ald Trump threat­ens to de­clare a bo­gus na­tional emer­gency to al­low the mil­i­tary to build his wall, us­ing De­fense Depart­ment money and “mil­i­tary em­i­nent do­main” (es­sen­tially the seiz­ing of pri­vate land by the mil­i­tary), even Repub­li­cans in Con­gress AND TRUMP SUP­PORT­ERS NEED TO IN­ALLY be­gin wor­ry­ing about the po­ten­tial for ex­ec­u­tive tyranny.

First, de­spite past pres­i­dents declar­ing na­tional emer­gen­cies, the Con­sti­tu­tion does not au­tho­rize any such gov­ern­ment seizure of power, be­cause the na­tion’s founders had had quite enough of the British mil­i­tary oc­cu­pa­tion in colo­nial Amer­ica and never wanted some­thing sim­i­lar to hap­pen again.

The Con­sti­tu­tion only au­tho­rizes the sus­pen­sion of habeas cor­pus (an in­di­vid­ual’s abil­ity to chal­lenge de­ten­tion by the gov­ern­ment) in times of war or in­sur­rec­tion — and then im­plic­itly only by Con­gress (be­cause the pro­vi­sion is in Ar­ti­cle I, which gov­erns Con­gress’s, not the ex­ec­u­tive’s, ac­tiv­i­ties). With the ex­pe­ri­ence of the tyranny of the British king, the founders were un­likely to have wanted the pres­i­dent to be able to sus­pend habeas cor­pus (al­though some past pres­i­dents have un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally done so), much less go fur­ther and de­clare a state of emer­gency or im­pose mar­tial law.

Sec­ond, the Con­sti­tu­tion re­quires that if fed­eral ac­tiv­i­ties are un­der­taken, they can do so only with money ap­pro­pri­ated by Con­gress. A pres­i­dent uni­lat­er­ally re­pro­gram­ming money ap­pro­pri­ated by the Con­gress for use by the De­fense Depart­ment to build a use­less bor­der wall is con­trary to this con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion.

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