Can the President do what he likes? Pretty much, I think.
The President is expected to faithfully execute the laws, but the President can veto bills, take exception with signing statements, or direct subordinates to ignore laws. The courts might intervene, but the resources of the Dept. of Justice can be used to formulate an appeal, and the Supreme Court is historically reluctant to intervene when a question of presidential power is debatable.
Can the President do what he likes? Here are some examples:
- President Ford pardoned former President Nixon who had appointed him as VP before resigning. Several Nixon Administration officials were convicted of crimes, served time in jail, and were not pardoned.
- Reagan Administration officials secretly arranged an illegal sale of arms to Iran. They plan to use the money to fund Contras in Nicaragua. Reagan denied ordering this, and defended his subordinates by withholding documents. Reagan Administration officials charged with crimes were pardoned by Reagan’s successor, President G. H. W. Bush.
- President Clinton signed several pardons at the end of his second term. If the only penalty for audacious pardons is impeachment, then there is no effective penalty during the last few months of an administration as impeachment takes time.
- President G. W. Bush instigated two wars, ignoring opposition.
- President Trump continues to profit from his business interests as no other government official can.
- President Trump ordered a missile attack on Syria, reportedly influenced by a TV news program
- Trump Administration nepotism would be illegal for others.
- President Trump’s lawyer argues that he can block whom he likes on social media.
- President Trump reportedly was advised that presidential power to pardon is unlimited; he might even pardon himself. If done at the end of his term, there would be no practical recourse.
Could the President order a nuclear war. It is likely he or she could. It is extremely dangerous for only one person, whomever it might be, to be empowered as our president reportedly is:
Pacific Fleet commander Scott Swift recently told a security conference in Australia that having sworn an oath to obey the US President as commander-in-chief to defend the constitution, he would launch a nuclear attack on China if ordered to do so by President Trump.
Perhaps Admiral Swift wanted to call attention to a problem. If they receive dubious or dangerous orders, I would prefer that commanders would use their best judgement instead of blind obedience.
Our government is composed of three supposedly equal branches: the judicial, the executive and the legislative.
Over the years, power has flowed to the presidency as Congress subordinated itself to the executive (see the number of wars initiated by the President, although the Constitution is quite clear about who has the power to declare war). See also the President’s use of signing statements, which modify the meaning of laws enacted by congress. Signing statements predated W Bush, but he used them extensively, so much so that in July 2006, a task force of the American Bar Association stated that the use of signing statements to modify the meaning of duly enacted laws serves to “undermine the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers”. It must be noted that Obama also embraced signing statements, but in a lesser manner.
Our nation was founded to escape tyranny. The Founders were well aware of the abuse of power by one man. There was no president under the Articles of Confederation. Remedies to executive abuses were codified in the Constitution. Unfortunately, these remedies require statesmen who are more devoted to the country than to special interests, which is why we are today approaching a constitutional crisis.
There are signs, however, that in the face of Trump’s capricious governance, the Congress is attempting to diminish the power of the presidency. The recent legislation limiting the President’s ability to remove sanctions gives one hope.
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Trump wants tariffs. If he gets them it will drive up retail prices here, hurt American manufacturers who export, and not bother China much. This is a very foreign idea for Republicans; will Congress go along?
According to the US Constitution only Congress can declare war. But Congress seems to be composed of small minds who either do not know or could care less about the rule of law. As long as they “get theirs”. Tom Reed is no exception to the rule. In fact, he is the poster boy for the rule. History has examples of democracies being lost by intimidation of those who are supposed to protect it.
It looks like Trump’s Arpaio pardon is going to be reviewed:
The article is well worth the time spent.
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Interesting, yes, but my belief that the pardon power is absolute is unshaken. The Arpaio case, even if it sets a bad precedent, isn’t worth a constitutional crisis. We don’t need officers from two branches of government fighting over a prisoner. The proper constitutional remedy for abuse of the power to pardon is impeachment. Even after impeachment, the pardon would stand.
Arpaio is a monster. He systematically tortured human beings based on race. For years. I’ve read eyewitness accounts of his demented actions on people and their sufferings, once he got his hands on them. Even the contempt charge was much too little.
I try to imagine myself as one of the people he harmed. And how they must feel watching ‘justice’ play out. I can’t. As an American, I am disgusted.
Not worth a constitutional crisis? An interesting opinion.
How many people must be effected to make a constitutional crisis worthwhile?
What is a “Constitutional Crisis”? We have a Constitution. We either follow it or we don’t. There is only a real crisis if one of the branches decides that any other branch is above the law. To keep the Arpaio case in perspective.
He broke the law and abused power as an agent of the law. The county for which he worked had to pay millions of dollars in fines for his regular lawbreaking. He was then ordered, by the courts, to stop breaking the law and violating the Constitutional rights of US citizens.. He not only ignored the courts, he publicly thumbed his nose and continued to violate the rights of US citizens.
This was not a case of making an honest mistake. He was even given a chance to STOP violating the rights of citizens and chose to ignore the courts, the final arbiters of the Constitution.
Donald Trump chose to pardon a criminal who openly and consistently violated the Constitution. A criminal who used the power of the state to do so. Any “Constitutional Crisis” has been brought about by Trump, who now claims that as chief executive he can overturn court decisions at will. Based solely on the fact that the man violating the Constitution is a Trump supporter.
If the president can ignore the courts and Constitution and the Congress refuses to act to check that claim we are indeed in a real “Constitutional Crisis”.
It should not be ignored.
(Note to moderator: My account “josephurban.wordpress.com” has been flagged for many months. Someone has managed to convince Askimet that my posts should be banned. Evidently someone who does not like my politics has successfully banned me from all wordpress sites.. Askimet has not been able or willing to rectify this situation. I do not know if there is any way you can unblock the account from your end.)
Thanks Joe, for a good post.
More from the WaPo:
“Even if you believe there is no effective limit on presidential pardons (e.g., the president could pardon every white cop who kills an African American youth), the Arpaio pardon has opened a can of worms — and previewed the firestorm that would erupt if Trump tried to pardon associates and family members with regard to the Russia investigation.”
After all, I still am of the opinion that the proper remedy for outrageous pardons, past or future, is impeachment. An irresponsible President can do much worse than pardon a criminal.
I’m unsure of your position. I have some questions.
What would you consider an outrageous pardon?
Does your opinion about presidential pardons and an irresponsible president extend to all criminal behavior? Some examples: ignoring court orders (Arpaio), violating the constitution (Arpaio), fraud, assault, murder, sexual assault, sexual assault with a minor. Which of these rise to your definition of an outrageous pardon?
Does the Arpaio pardon qualify as outrageous?
If so, would you consider it to be the basis of an impeachment?
I think the Arpaio pardon could be a misdemeanor in the constitutional sense for all the reasons explained by others above; a misdemeanor could be anything that Congress considers seriously wrong. Ford’s pardon of Nixon was outrageous, but Ford did have a reasonable explanation for his decision. Clearly if Nixon had attempted to pardon himself, that would have been outrageous and would have seen him impeached and convicted.
There are at least two problems with impeachment: it requires an offense that a majority in Congress considers sufficient, which is a high standard in light of partisanship, and it comes long after the offense–likely too late to be useful.
Pretty scary with this guy in charge!
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