^ impeachment must be only the beginning of assuring that this sort of lunacy never happens to America again
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We have all seen that Mr. Trump has zero respect for the rule of law and basically thinks that a President can do whatever he wants. Unfortunately, plenty of the outrages he has done arise at least in part from authority that prior Congresses have given to the holder of Article 2’s office. The next Congress should take back authority that never should have been given in the first place.
Before I get to my list of legislation I hope the next Congress enacts, it’s useful to look at Article 2 of the Constitution, Section 3, which tasks the President :
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
Also needing your consideration is Article 1, Section 1 :
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
BUT : Article 1, Section 6, gives the President a check on said power, namely, a veto, which may be overridden if both houses of Congress vote to override the veto by “two-thirds of that House.” “Two thirds” is not defined, but the common meaning would seem to be two thirds of the membership rather than two thirds of those voting.
—>> I have highlighted the “take Care” clause of Article 2, Section 3 because in so very many cases, Mr. Trump has undermined, if not outright refuse, to take such Care. With respect to immigration laws, he has basically made his own, violating all sorts of basic rights and procedures. Same for environmental protection, for civil rights, and for the conduct of foreign policy. In addition, he has refused to comply with the entirety of Congress’s powers of oversight and investigation of his performance of office.
That said, much of what he has done, by way of executive order and otherwise, he has done pursuant to legislation that gives him such authority. With respect to immigration, to declarations of national emergency, and in his engagement with his cabinet officers and their departments, he has perverted their duties to the service of his won, personal and political needs. He has also done the same with his personal conduct of foreign policy.
As Article 2, Section 2 says in part — He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law — all heads of the executive branch’s departments charged with “taking Care that the laws be faithfully executed” are nominated by him, subject only to the Senate’s confirmation. Because all such department heads serve at his pleasure, and can be terminated for any reason, they are vulnerable to the President’s asking them to do other things than their appointed “take care” tasks. Mr. Trump has bent both his Attorney General and his Secretary of State entirely to his political purposes, and he has abused almost as badly his Secretary of the Treasury, the Commerce Department, Housing and Urban Development, Education, and Interior, to cite the most obvious examples.
When he has not outright perverted his departments, he has set them upon an agenda which is his only, entirely apart from the law. He has forced Defense, Commerce, Education, Housing, Environmental Protection, and Homeland Security to disregard the law, discard requirements, and substitute his policy whims.
Most significantly, and the occasion for his impeachment, finally, by the House, he has violated laws in place, criminal and otherwise, by pressuring and even extorting foreign governments to participate in his election needs.
He has been to get away with these many violations of his oath of office because the Senate has a majority belonging to the same political party that he claims to belong to; and in modern America, political party is everything. It’s the vehicle for big donors and money influence of all kinds, it’s the cloak covering all sorts of corruption and shell games, it’s the obstacle to useful legislation and, as we saw from Senator McConnell in 2016, it’s the instrument by which the Senate violated the Constitution in refusing to grant its advice and consent to the nomination by then President Obama of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.
The only practical antidote to the destruction of Constitutional government by the Republican party these past 7 years is to assure that Congress and the Presidency are controlled, starting in 2021, by the other party, the Democrats. I am under no illusions as to the Democratic party’s flaws. Its leaders are not saints. They’re subject to the same sorts of donor and special interest pressures that have corrupted Republicans. That said, the Democrats have so far stopped short of putting their party priorities ahead of the nation’s interests. I am ready to trusty that when they take full control in 2021, that they will legislate changes to prior enabling laws and will, hopefully, also clarify Presidential authority which, up to now, has assumed basic good faith on said office holder’s part.
Mr. Trump exhibits no good faith in it at all. If laws are not enacted, another Trump can come along, be elected, and do the same as Mr. Trump has done. Here’s how we can make it much harder for a future Trump to do stuff :
( 1 ) revise the National Emergency Act so that the President can only declare a national emergency and use emergency powers, if authorized by a vote of 60 Senators.
( 2 ) clarify the laws authorizing “executive orders,” so that it is clear that no executive order shall contravene legislative purposes, or use emergency or other exception to override Federal law, and that any executive order that appears to do so shall be void ab initio
( 3 ) require that any tariff the President wishes to impose, pursuant to authority to do so, must be confirmed by a vote of at least 60 Senators.
( 4 ) enact legislation forbidding any Executive Department, and its officers, including the Department head, from in any way using Department powers to further the President’s purely political or campaign interests, and include a substantial fine, personal to the individuals found to have done so.
( 5 ) clarify that no claim of “executive privilege” shall apply to any public record sought for investigative purposes by a duly authorized committee of Congress or Congress generally.
( 6 ) enact that any withholding, by an executive official, of a duly requested public record, absent excusable time for performance, shall be a criminal contempt resulting in a fine personal to such officer and, in case of a second offense, imprisonment until the contempt is cured.
( 7 ) clarifying that the “advise and consent” clause of Article 2 includes a presumption of good faith, and that such advice and consent must be given to Presidential nominations as promptly as feasible, including during an election year.
These suggestions will do for starters. I invite readers to suggest additional measures.
Lastly, i wish to remind readers that impeachment and removal from office need not be all the sanctions that a removed President might face. Here I offer you another quote from the Constitution we claim to honor :
Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
— Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere