Executive Power …

More than a few times over the past year or so, people have tried to assure me that there are limits to what Trump can do, that the Constitution, Congress, and the Courts will stop him from going too far, and all will be well.  It is true that the Constitution defines and limits the power of the office of president … except in certain circumstances.  And Congress has a large degree of control … if they can agree to agree on anything and if the issue at hand cannot be done by executive order.  And the Courts can intervene … but there are levels within the court system leading up to the Supreme Court – the one that Trump is stacking with his and the Federalist Society’s hand-picked justices.

On a Friday afternoon in July 2016, a faction of the Turkish military launched a coup attempt allegedly aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government.  Although Turkey is considered a democracy and Erdoğan was democratically elected, he was and is clearly a threat to Turkish democracy and secularism.  As leader of the AKP Islamist party, Erdoğan had ‘reformed’ Turkish schools along Islamist lines, cracked down on freedom of the press, and pushed constitutional changes that would consolidate dangerous amounts of power in the president’s hands.

It has been my belief since the beginning that Erdoğan himself played a leading role in staging the coup.  If so, to what end?  To give him the justification to declare a ‘state of emergency’ that would increase the powers of his office.  As part of the state of emergency, Turkey temporarily suspended part of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The initial state of emergency was for three months, but in October 2016, it was extended to be for a year, and the following year it was again extended, and was only lifted in July 2018, after new elections that gave Erdoğan greatly expanded powers.  During that time, there was an extensive purge of the Turkish civil service employees, with more than 45,000 military officials, police officers, judges, governors, and civil servants arrested or suspended, including 2,700 judges, 15,000 teachers, and every university dean in the country.  Turkish authorities said the crackdown was meant to “suppress dissent”.  journalists-TurkeyAccording to Amnesty International, detainees in Turkey have been denied access to legal counsel, have been beaten and tortured, and have not been provided with adequate food, water, or medical care.

Now tuck into the back of your mind for a bit the fact that Donald Trump made the decision, without consulting Congress, without consulting his military and foreign affairs advisors, without consulting our allies, to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria based on a telephone conversation with Erdoğan.  Consider how much Trump admires those ‘strong-arm’ leaders such as Erdoğan, Putin, and even the Philippine’s Rodrigo Duterte.  Ever since he took office, Trump has chafed against the constraints of the office, believing that as president his powers ought to be unlimited.

Fast forward … it is rumoured that Robert Mueller will complete his investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election, and the Trump family/campaign role in such interference around mid-February.  While that is strictly rumour at this point, the timing makes sense.  What do you think will happen if, as I firmly believe, Mueller has evidence that Trump’s family with Trump’s knowledge, and perhaps even Trump himself were involved in underhanded dealings to influence the outcome of the election? Trump-angry What if it is proven that Trump broke the trust of his office?  No doubt impeachment proceedings would begin in the democratic-majority House of Representatives.  Given what we know about Trump and his erratic temperament, what is your best guess about his reaction?  Think he’ll just sit down and shut up?  Yeah, right.  If you believe that, please contact me, for I have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn that I’ll sell you dirt-cheap.

Fast forward even more … the year is 2020 and the election for which Trump has been campaigning for four years is rapidly approaching.  And yet … Trump is not winning any popularity contests … his temper tantrums are no longer playing well among his masses, in light of the financial recession caused largely by his tariffs and by the chaos he wrought at the end of 2018 by shutting the government down needlessly while demanding billions of dollars for his ignominious border wall.  Trump is not being supported by the majority of the GOP in Congress, and the Republican Party is lukewarm about his re-election bid, at best.  trump-tantrumThink he’s going to just put his nose to the grindstone, do the best job he can while trying to win over the masses with his honesty and integrity?  Again … see above comment about my bridge.

Not quite two years into his term of office, Donald Trump has signed …

  • 86 Executive orders
  • 42 Presidential memoranda
  • 12 Presidential determinations
  • 01 Administrative order
  • 22 Presidential notices
  • 01 Presidential sequestration order
  • 07 National security presidential memoranda
Trump-sign-bill

Can’t you just hear him saying, “nyah nyah nyah nyah-nyah”?

None of these required the advice and consent of Congress.  Many were to overturn regulations that were in place to safeguard our health and safety.  Others were simply to exert his power.  None, as far as I can tell, were in our collective best interest.

Back now to 2019 when impeachment is looming, or 2020 when an election looms large.  What does Trump do?  Does he follow the example of his buddy Erdoğan and create a diversion that will allow him to declare a ‘state of emergency’?  Oh yes, he most certainly can do that, and with little or no reason.  The decision to declare a ‘state of emergency’ is entirely within his discretion, and it makes more than 100 ‘special provisions’ available to him.  The framers of the Constitution never in their wildest dreams imagined a Donald Trump, never believed the nation would need to be protected from its own leader.

What, then, could happen if, say to detract from impeachment proceedings, Trump declared a state of emergency?  Worst case scenario, he could shut down electronic communications.  He could freeze the bank accounts of those he believed to be subversive.  He could disperse troops within the country to subdue domestic unrest, ie., legitimate protests.  And the list goes on.state-of-emergencyIt is not my intent to fear-monger … I don’t play Trump’s games.  It is, however, my intent to proclaim that the time is now to rein in this president.  Now, before it becomes impossible, is the time to set limits on the ‘executive authority’ that the Founding Fathers never thought would be necessary.  When the 116th Congress is seated next Thursday, one of the first orders of business, besides getting the government open without giving in on “the wall”, should be to set limits on what the president can and cannot do without the consent of Congress.

Personally, I would like to see strict guidelines for declaring a state of emergency, and a very narrow interpretation of what he can or cannot do under such a state.  He must not be allowed to shut down the internet, the only means many of us have of getting news of national and world events.  He must not be allowed to stifle the freedom of the press or our First Amendment rights of free speech.

There have been situations before where a president overstepped the reasonable limits of his power and Congress or the Courts stepped in, such as the Youngstown Steel case in 1952 where President Truman attempted to take over the steel plants, but the Supreme Court said, “no”.  But with Donald Trump the bully in office, I don’t think we can assume that he would be easily stopped from assuming far greater power than he should have, and it would behoove us to put restraints in place before they are needed rather than wait until it is too late.

30 thoughts on “Executive Power …

  1. You are quite right Jill. Dangerous people will do extraordinary things when cornered. With so much power to abuse, this situation is just a matter of timing for DT. Question is, does your Congress have enough time to change those emergency powers?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. One of our hopes must be that there will be enough strength in the 2019 Congress to combat this man’s worse inclinations. People like Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md), who will be Chairman of the Oversight Committee. Back in June, I remember reading his words in The Washington Post regarding the Republicans in the Senate and the House : “There is no accountability. There is no check. This is the imperial presidency.” Cummings has recently stated that the number one goal is to protect Mr. Mueller’s investigation. Congress must wake up to the fact that we have a president that is pointing his middle finger at the Constitution and We The People. There is much work to be done and they need to get started before it is too late. We need to keep reminding them that they represent our interests and welfare, not enabling this wannabe dictator. Thank-you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Quite so … and Trump knows it, which explains some of his utterly insane decisions since the mid-terms in November. There are now but 3 days until the new Congress is sworn in. Let us hope they can make a difference, put some brakes on this atrocious “president”. Sigh. Happy New Year, my dear friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In too many countries democracy is now seen as an unhelpful break action by vested interests. Increasingly you hear “you are either with us or against us”. Working together or compromise is a sign of weakness. Countries are becoming polarised which allows the like of Trump and the vested interests to gain power. A classic example was in the U.K. Foxhunting in pole after pole is deeply unpopular. And yet the Pro Hunting Lobby managed to get May to make it government policy to relax fox hunting restrictions. Thankfully her decision to hold an election which cost her the majority has kicked the changes into the long grass for the time being.

    Liked by 4 people

    • You are spot on. The interests of the people no longer seem relevant in either your government or mine. Compromise? What’s that? I don’t think bipartisanship has been a buzzword for about a decade here. These days, the important ones are those who control the purse-strings. What’s so interesting, though, is that the “populist” movement that drove both Brexit and Donald Trump’s election, has people thinking that they are “finally” being put first, when nothing could be further from the truth. I have no idea where this ends. Sigh.

      Liked by 2 people

      • It’s because too many established parties certainly in the UK have largely not addressed the concerns of a large part of the electorate for far too many years. So when the likes of Trump come along they can easily play on this resentment and disenfranchisement. That’s a big word for me…..

        Liked by 2 people

        • These days, at least here, our elected officials’ loyalty seems to be more to the party than the people. And the parties have moved so far to the right and left that there seems to be no middle ground, no room for compromise. We the People are the ones who pay the price, and yet some still support the likes of Trump and believe that he and his minions are helping them, simply because he tells them he is. I think education is at least part of the answer, and the internet is at least part of the problem. People … some anyway … are content to be spoon-fed their information rather than going in search of the truth. Sigh.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. While we fret, worry, and wring our hands … the deplorables sit in their comfy living room chairs and watch Faux News tell them what a grand and great president is leading this country. And us? We’re just those “liberal snowflakes” who refuse to see how their Esteemed Leader is Making America Great Again!!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hardly seems fair, does it? I wish I could say that things will improve soon, but my magic eight ball seems to be broken these days and in truth, I have no idea where we will be next year at this time. I hope for a better world, a kinder, gentler world, a better leader, a bit of peace. Have a Happy New Year, my dear friend! Thanks for being part of my blogging family this year! We’ll get through this …

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jill, it speaks volumes that Trump idolizes autocrats. I read today that the worse problem in Russia is not the price of oil or the US sanctions, it is the rampant corruption that permeates into judges, bureaucrats, real estate agents, etc. The example was selling a house where these corrupt officials will keep your money and may take your home.

    I mention this as an example. Power corrupts. And, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Donald J. Trump is a corrupt man. So, he admires (and emulates the best he can) corrupt leaders. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • He is indeed a corrupt man, one who I believe has no conscience, no little voice in his head that tells him something may be the wrong thing to do. We have seen his vileness escalate over the past year … what can the future possibly hold but more of the same, only worse? I believe his goal is to be just like Putin or Erdogan … let us hope we can stop him … soon!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Scary things to ponder indeed. Yet with no one in the republican party to stand up to him, he could well try any other these things and more. He runs his companies as a dictator, all orders come from him and no one can challenge them. That is what he wants the presidency to be. Hugs

    Liked by 4 people

    • I see some signs among the republicans in Congress that they may be starting to open their eyes, to understand that Donald Trump is not a good man, not an honourable man. What it will take for them to act, though, is for his base to open their eyes as well. Therein lies the challenge, and it is one that we must all take up. Yes, Trump would very much like to be a dictator, and the Constitution can only go so far in stopping him … We The People must do the rest.
      Hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Can anyone really stop him? What is defined as a state of emergency? Destructive Trainwreck can pretty much do a lot of things noone ever thought he could, or would. Don’t trust him to obey the constitution, he is probably writing a new one as we speak.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think that if we can wake up his base, make them realize just what they are enabling, he can be stopped. As to what defines a ‘state of emergency’, a president has broad leeway there and there isn’t a definition. If he thinks, or claims to think, that the security of the country is threatened, he can declare a state of emergency. He can manufacture the evidence of a threat. No, my friend, I don’t trust him any further than I can throw a feather.

      Liked by 2 people

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