President Donald Trump’s desire to be a dictator is being actively pushed along by his lawyers, who actually somehow determined that Trump has the power to usurp Congress even though the Constitution grants no such power.
Article I of the Constitution deals with the legislative branch while Articles II and III deal with the executive and judicial branches. Congress comes first because they make the laws. The President, whomever that may be, is charged with executing the laws. And the courts interpret the laws and determine constitutionality. All three are equal, and one cannot try to take control of the other, though there are ways to provide checks and balances.
So, when Trump refused to release $391 million in military aid Congress passed to help Ukraine defend themselves against Russian aggression, he blatantly refused to execute the law. Making things even worse, he froze the aid to extract a favor that would politically benefit himself. In short, Trump usurped the power of Congress, and his lawyers actually told him that the president has the power to do so.
The New York Times has been seeking documents by filing Freedom of Information Act requests, and those requests have been successful at securing documents that are very revealing, including one showing that chief of staff Mick Mulvaney sent an email from Air Force One seeking an answer as to whether or not Trump can withhold the aid even though he had been repeatedly warned that delaying the aid would be a disastrous move.
And just like when former President George W. Bush’s lawyers agreed that torture is somehow legal even though it violates American and international law, Trump’s lawyers insisted that the president can usurp congressional power.
According to a New York Times report:
“The president, the lawyers believed, could ignore the requirements of the Impoundment Control Act and continue to hold the aid by asserting constitutional commander in chief powers that give him authority over diplomacy. He could do so, they believed, if he determined that, based on existing circumstances, releasing the money would undermine military or diplomatic efforts.”
The report went on to note that Trump’s lawyers “were developing an argument — not previously divulged publicly — that Mr. Trump’s role as commander in chief would simply allow him to override Congress on the issue.”
As it turns out, former National Security Adviser John Bolton is one such official who warned Trump against freezing the aid. So did Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Therefore, testimony from all three of them plus Mulvaney is absolutely more necessary than ever in the impending Senate impeachment trial.
The president possesses no such power. He abused his power and proceeded to openly obstruct Congress.
Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe responded to the report on Twitter:
This is just devastating. No wonder Trump would rather be caught obstructing Congress (Article II) than have these details (Article I) get out. https://t.co/QeA5mYYzYO
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) December 30, 2019
He’s right. It is devastating. Trump is literally trying to argue that he has the power to override laws passed by Congress. While the president can veto and sign legislation, he certainly cannot refuse to release aid appropriated by Congress. Even the Supreme Court ruled as such when former President Nixon tried a similar scheme. Congress responded by passing the Impoundment Control Act of 1974 to prevent presidents from ever refusing to release appropriations. By freezing aid to Ukraine, Trump broke the law.
The three branches of government are vital to our country’s survival. If Trump were allowed to seize control of Congress, our democracy would be lost and we would have a dictatorship. The lawyers who crafted this excuse to give Trump more power should be fired and disbarred. And Trump himself should be removed from office. Because this assault on Article I of the Constitution cannot stand.
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