It is the job of Congress to make laws, and the job of the president to enforce those laws. Typically, a president would refuse to enforce a law that he believed to be unconstitutional, but the Constitution gives the president broad powers in this area, and he can simply refuse to enforce any law with which he disagrees. True, there may be ramifications when his name is on the ballot next time, but unless the issue is important enough to be kept in the spotlight, it is unlikely.
Yesterday, Donald Trump announced that he will refuse to enforce the sanctions against Russia that Congress overwhelmingly passed last July. These sanctions were, in part, a response to Russia’s interference in our 2016 elections by hacking Democratic communications and flooding social media with misinformation. There were only 5 ‘nay’ votes out of 535 members of both chambers of Congress, which when one considers the great partisan divide in the 115th Congress, is nothing short of a miracle and speaks volumes about the importance of this action.
Why is Trump refusing to enforce the law? According to a State Department spokesperson …
“Given the long time frames generally associated with major defense deals, the results of this effort are only beginning to become apparent. From that perspective, if the law is working, sanctions on specific entities or individuals will not need to be imposed because the legislation is, in fact, serving as a deterrent.”
Representative Eliot Engel hit the nail on the head …
“I’m fed up waiting for this administration to protect our country and our elections. The Trump administration had a decision to make whether they would follow the law and crack down on those responsible for attacking American democracy in 2016. They chose instead to let Russia off the hook yet again. The State Department claims that the mere threat of sanctions will deter Russia’s aggressive behavior. How do you deter an attack that happened two years ago, and another that’s already underway? It just doesn’t make sense.”
Indeed, it just doesn’t make sense. Unless, you consider the speculation that there were negotiations between Putin and Trump whereby Trump promised to lift sanctions and impose no new ones, in exchange for Putin’s assistance in the 2016 election. In that case, it all makes perfect sense.
Why does it matter? It matters because in just over nine months we will hold mid-term elections for every seat in the House of Representatives, and 33 seats in the Senate. According to CIA director Mike Pompeo, there is every reason to believe that Russia intends to influence those elections in any way possible, saying that he has seen no reduction in Russian ‘activity’ and that “I have every expectation that they will continue to try and do that ….”
Thus far, despite widespread, fact-based evidence of Russia’s interference, Trump has refused to acknowledge that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election. Whether his refusal is based on some agreement he made with Putin, or whether it is simply that his ego refuses to believe that he may not have won the election based on his own “charisma” is anybody’s guess, but is likely a combination of both.
The 2018 mid-terms have enhanced significance because the current state of Congress, with a mostly-corrupt republican majority in both chambers, is leading us down a perilous path that could well end in the destruction of our system as we know it. Far too many republicans in Congress are willing to go along with whatever Trump wants, in order to collect the spoils: Trump’s endorsement and ‘donations’ from the corporations and wealthy 1% to whom Trump has sworn his allegiance.
Too many times in the past year, Trump has shown favoritism toward Russia, calling Robert Mueller’s investigation a “hoax” and a “witch hunt”, and even attempting to fire Mueller last year. Shortly after he fired FBI Director James Comey, he confided to Russian officials in the Oval Office that firing Comey had “relieved great pressure” on him.
By refusing to enforce the law, the sanctions against Russia, it appears that Trump is giving Putin carte blanche to continue his dirty little game of influencing elections in countries other than his own. Russia is accused of meddling in the elections of at least 27 countries in Europe and North America. Think about that one for a minute. Ask yourself this question: what is the end goal?
It is discomforting to hear Trump praise Putin, while constantly criticizing members of his own government. One must ask the question: why? Diehard Trump supporters will blow off these concerns as “just more liberal bias, trying to unseat Trump”. However, the facts all point toward, at the very least,Trump being willing to ‘look the other way’, if not being actively complicit with Russia.
Are there limits to the president’s power to refuse to enforce the law? Not really, though it is my opinion that there should be. The upcoming elections are far too important to allow anything to interfere with their integrity. Even without Russian influence, there are challenges in gerrymandering and disenfranchisement, to name only two. I have no solution, in case you were waiting for me to suggest one, but I know only that the citizens of this nation must open their eyes and be aware, and the media must help us by uncovering and reporting facts, not hoopla.