The Stew Reporting on government and politics

The power of the president’s pen

Politics | National emergency declaration renews executive overreach arguments
by Harvest Prude
Posted 2/21/19, 06:33 pm

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration has reignited a debate about presidential powers that is likely to go all the way up to the nation’s highest court.

The president’s declaration will allow him to access an additional $3.6 billion for funding increased security at the U.S. southern border. He said Friday that he plans to reroute money from other parts of the federal budget, too, and combine it with $1.4 billion appropriated by Congress for around $8 billion total to spend on border barriers—not necessarily a concrete wall.

By the end of the day Monday, 16 states had sued to stop him, something he anticipated in his speech Friday announcing the national emergency. “We’ll end up in the Supreme Court, and hopefully we’ll get a fair shake and we’ll win,” he said in the White House Rose Garden.

The National Emergencies Act of 1979 gives presidents the ability to respond quickly to situations they deem a crisis. Since then, executives have declared emergencies at least 58 times on everything from trade to terrorist attacks. President Barack Obama declared 12 national emergencies during his eight years in office, most of them to respond to crises in other countries and protect U.S. interests abroad. Obama also left a legacy of broad executive actions such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects people brought to the country illegally as children from deportation. New York Times reporters Binyamin Appelbaum and Michael D. Shear, scrutinizing Obama’s legacy in 2016, wrote that he “pursued executive power without apology and in ways that will shape the presidency for decades to come.”

Trump’s executive actions have caused some commentators, even a few conservatives, to compare him to Obama. Critics are questioning whether “a president can basically treat Congress as a lap dog and say, well, if you don’t do what I want, I’ve got the power to do it without you,” said Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Adam Carrington, an assistant professor of Politics at Hillsdale College, told me Congress has slowly given away its powers by passing increasingly vague legislation and leaving it to agencies and the president to interpret the details. The result is that agencies and the president are “basically writing regulations that are equivalent to making legislation,” he said, adding, “The problem is what’s becoming the norm, not that the current president is rampaging on the norms. If there’s a problem, it’s that he’s too normal because of what the new normal is.”

Carrington said he would not be surprised if the Supreme Court deferred to Trump on the question of whether the situation at the border constitutes an emergency: “They might say, this isn’t our job to decide.” But the justices could still strike down Trump’s allocation of emergency funds if they decided he did not stick to a tight interpretation of the law to justify his actions.

House Democrats, led by Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, plan to introduce a resolution of disapproval as early as Friday to terminate the emergency declaration. The National Emergencies Act allows Congress to undo the declaration with a joint resolution, but only if it receives the president’s signature or if Congress overrides his veto. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urged members of both parties to support the resolution. It is expected to sail through the House and will automatically receive a vote in the Senate within 18 days.

Only four Republicans in the Senate would need to join their colleagues across the aisle for the resolution to pass. GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine pledged her support Wednesday as long as it was a “clean” resolution nullifying the president’s emergency declaration and nothing else.

Carrington said that the only time lawmakers effectively challenge overreaches of executive power “is when a president’s own party starts to push back against his powers.”

Republicans have so far been divided over the president’s move. While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and nine others have expressed support, about 16 have expressed concerns, according to The Washington Post. As of Thursday, four Republicans in addition to Collins have opposed the declaration: Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

Meanwhile, an NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll found that 61 percent of voters disapprove of the president’s emergency declaration. Around 85 percent of Republicans approved of the move, while 84 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of independents disapproved.

The issue at stake, according to Carrington, “has nothing to do with whether a wall is a bad idea or a good idea. It’s a question of how do you get there and what does the Constitution allow. The Constitution says the end and the means matter. And the right means often lead to better ends.”

Associated Press/Photo by Mark Humphrey (file) Associated Press/Photo by Mark Humphrey (file) Sen. Bernie Sanders

If at first you don’t succeed …

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., announced his second bid for the White House Tuesday in an email to supporters. The professed democratic socialist, who lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton in 2016, has seen the party evolve in recent years to embrace some tenants of his platform that once were considered too radical, among them Medicare for all, tuition-free public college, and hiking the minimum wage.

Sanders started off by out-raising his 2020 Democratic challengers—a group of nearly a dozen so far. He raked in more than $5.9 million from 220,000 donors in the first 24 hours after he announced his candidacy. That’s more than double the take of Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., previously the biggest first-day fund-raiser with $1.5 million, Politico reported.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign has bulked up its communications staff. The organization announced it tapped Republican operative Tim Murtaugh as communications director, Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany as national press secretary, and Mark Lotter, a former aide to Vice President Mike Pence, as director of strategic communications.

Trump filed paperwork to establish his reelection campaign on his first day as president, and several months ago confirmed that he would again ask Pence to be his running mate.

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld on Friday became the first Republican to announce a primary challenge to Trump. He said he would form an exploratory committee, arguing that the nation needed a “mid-course correction” with new leadership.

Weld said the president had destabilized America’s international alliances and failed to call out racism, address climate change, and confront enemies like Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Cassie Smedile told The Wall Street Journal that “the RNC and the Republican Party are firmly behind the president. Any effort to challenge the president’s nomination is bound to go absolutely nowhere.” —H.P.

Associated Press/Photo by Travis Long/The News & Observer Associated Press/Photo by Travis Long/The News & Observer Mark Harris at a State Elections Board hearing Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C.

Back to the ballot box

The North Carolina State Board of Elections has ordered a new vote in the 9th Congressional District because of an illegal absentee ballot operation that skewed the results.

Republican candidate Mark Harris led Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in the November election, but officials declined to certify Harris as the winner after questions emerged about absentee ballots in Bladen County, where political operative Leslie McCrae Dowless ran what the state’s top elections official called a “coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme.”

Witnesses told the board they tampered with absentee ballots, including signing them and choosing candidates on incomplete ballots. Dowless had come under investigation for his work for another Republican candidate during the 2016 primary, court documents show.

In an expected move, Harris himself told the board at a hearing Thursday that he thought a new election was necessary. “It’s become clear to me that the public's confidence in the 9th District seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted,” he said. He insisted he had no knowledge of any illegal activities by his campaign staff.

The seat in Congress could remain vacant for months as the district holds new primaries and a new election, the dates of which have not been announced. —Anne K. Walters

Harvest Prude

Harvest is a reporter for WORLD based in Washington, D.C.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Fri, 02/22/2019 10:44 pm

    If true, the accusations of ballot tampering in North Carolina should result in prison time for the perpetrators. 

    But a big problem:  with so many false reports, false accusations, name calling etc against Republicans by the main-stream media,  I’ve reached the point where I’m hardly willing to believe anything negative that’s reported about Republicans. 

    I most definitely do not accuse World journalists of that kind of bias. Trouble is, most news reports do originate in the MSM, so the distortion is already present in what is obtained by World. 

    Sometimes “progressives” tell us that “your truth may not be right for me, so it is not true for me.”  Or even, “your truth is not true for me so your truth is not true at all.”  

    We may be rapidly getting to the place where the total subjectivity of truth will no longer even be debatable. 

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Sat, 02/23/2019 10:07 am

    Progressives do not have a monopoly on moral corruption.  True Believers live in both conservative and progressive camps.

    G. Gordon Liddy plotted to murder a reporter and participated in the Watergate break-in.  You can read about this in his own autobiography, Will.  He, Chuck Colson, and their compatriots were truly wicked men who did what they did in defense of their conservative political beliefs.

    These types of men live in all generations, in all political camps.  I have seen this more clearly than ever in the past several years.  We must not allow our political prejudices to cloud our moral judgement.

  • news2me
    Posted: Sat, 02/23/2019 07:29 pm

    I don't think other states should be suing to keep the wall from being built. It's none of their business. Are they sending buses to transport these illegals to their states? No. The illegals go through someone else's property to where exactly? Are they being distributed to the other states who are protesting the wall.   

    I think we should counter-sue for the money the other states take from our country to pay for illegals and keep them from being arrested. They are breaking the law and their keepers are making us pay for their keep.


    TRUMP 2020

  • news2me
    Posted: Sat, 02/23/2019 08:01 pm

    Mr. Bossard,

    I am not a Republican or Democrat. I guess I might say I am a Christian Independent.

    G. Gordon Liddy was an agnostic. Not a Christian. He also worked for the FBI who have proved time again they can't be trusted. Therefore, G. Gordon Liddy's autobiography was probably mostly fiction.

    "Chuck Colson, and their compatriots were truly wicked men" Seriously?! What do you base your statement on? G. Gordon Liddy's book?

    What do you base MORALITY on? Morality comes from the Bible. A PROGRESSIVE saying he is a Chritian is an oxymoron. He can't support abortion and be a Christian. It's MURDER. There are many re-defining Christianity to fit into their mold. Churches have changed. The Bible warned us. The Bible clearly states that homosexuality is WRONG. And ABORTION? GOD help us all! 

    Christ's followers hear and know His voice. There is no other under heaven.

    When someone gives a false testimony, Christ's followers know even in Community Churches.  

  •  West Coast Gramma's picture
    West Coast Gramma
    Posted: Mon, 02/25/2019 07:08 pm

    Brendon Brossard wrote: "G. Gordon Liddy plotted to murder a reporter and participated in the Watergate break-in.  You can read about this in his own autobiography, Will."

    News2me replied:  "G. Gordon Liddy was an agnostic. Not a Christian. He also worked for the FBI who have proved time again they can't be trusted. Therefore, G. Gordon Liddy's autobiography was probably mostly fiction."

    Therefore, news2me stated that Liddy's autobiographical confession of having plotted to murder a reporter and of having participated in the Watergate break-in is "probably mostly fiction."

    That means news2me thinks that probably Liddy didn't do those things and except for lying about crimes he didn't really commit, he must be a good guy? Need I say more?