The Supreme Court Won’t Stop Executive Overreach

Presidential appointees, business advocates complain, routinely overstep the authority given them by Congress in how they write and enforce rules. With the addition of Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, business sees the Supreme Court as a reliable bulwark against executive branch overreach.

.. Judge Kavanaugh believes presidents, unlike regulators, are owed considerable deference, especially on national security and law enforcement. That’s significant because Mr. Trump is now using national security to justify his own economic interventions, especially on trade.

.. Much of the controversy over the administrative state harkens back to 1984, when the Supreme Court decided, in a case involving the Environmental Protection Agency, Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and an environmental group, that when a law is unclear, the court should defer to a federal agency’s interpretation of that law.

.. Courts have cited Chevron deference, as this doctrine is known, to grant wide latitude to regulatory agencies, from the EPA to the Department of Labor and the Federal Communications Commission. Many conservatives blame it for a decadeslong transfer of power to the executive branch. They questioned the legality of President Barack Obama’s routine use of executive authority, such as limiting greenhouse gas emissions and suspending some deportations of illegal immigrants, to sidestep Congress.

.. “Chevron is nothing more than a judicially orchestrated shift of power from Congress to the Executive Branch,” he wrote in 2016 in the Harvard Law Review.
It encourages the president, regardless of party, to “be extremely aggressive in seeking to squeeze its policy goals into ill-fitting statutory authorizations and restraints.”

.. Both parties have agencies they love to hate: For Republicans, it’s the EPA and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; for liberal Democrats, it’s now Immigration and Customs Enforcement. For both, it’s the Internal Revenue Service or the Justice Department when the other party controls the White House. In each case, a change of president is usually enough to change the agency’s behavior.

.. Yet even as he rolls back the administrative state, Mr. Trump has pushed the boundaries of presidential authority. He has imposed steep tariffs on imports of aluminum and steel and is planning the same on cars, citing his national security authority under a little-used 1962 law. Mr. Trump is also weighing forcing utilities to buy more coal and nuclear-generated power, also on national security grounds. 

In both cases, national security appears to be a pretext to shore up economically beleaguered industries.
..  “There is a pronounced dichotomy between Kavanaugh’s view on deference to agencies as opposed to his view on deference to presidents,” says Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. He says Congress has been progressively marginalized by the expanding authority of both federal agencies, and presidents; Judge Kavanaugh seems to oppose the first and encourage the second.

.. Judge Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion, as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, in 2015 that the National Security Agency could collect an individual’s telephone “meta data.” Because the purpose was preventing terrorist attacks, he said, it didn’t violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure.

A Liberal’s Case for Brett Kavanaugh

today, with the exception of the current justices and Judge Garland, it is hard to name anyone with judicial credentials as strong as those of Judge Kavanaugh.

.. Several of Judge Kavanaugh’s most important ideas and arguments — such as his powerful defense of presidential authority to oversee federal bureaucrats and his skepticism about newfangled attacks on the property rights of criminal defendants — have found their way into Supreme Court opinions.

.. Except for Judge Garland, no one has sent more of his law clerks to clerk for the justices of the Supreme Court than Judge Kavanaugh has. And his clerks have clerked for justices across the ideological spectrum.

.. This studiousness is especially important for a jurist like Judge Kavanaugh, who prioritizes the Constitution’s original meaning. A judge who seeks merely to follow precedent can simply read previous judicial opinions. But an “originalist” judge — who also cares about what the Constitution meant when its words were ratified in 1788 or when amendments were enacted — cannot do all the historical and conceptual legwork on his or her own.

Judge Kavanaugh seems to appreciate this fact, whereas Justice Antonin Scalia, a fellow originalist, did not read enough history and was especially weak on the history of the Reconstruction amendments and the 20th-century amendments.

.. admirably confessing that some of the views he held 20 years ago as a young lawyer — including his crabbed understandings of the presidency when he was working for the Whitewater independent counsel, Kenneth Starr — were erroneous.

.. they could try to sour the hearings by attacking Judge Kavanaugh and looking to complicate the proceedings whenever possible.

This would be a mistake. Judge Kavanaugh is, again, a superb nominee.

.. pledge either to vote yes for Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation — or, if voting no, to first publicly name at least two clearly better candidates whom a Republican president might realistically have nominated instead (not an easy task).

 

A bold new legal defense for Trump: Presidents cannot obstruct justice

The brazen assertion Monday by one of President Trump’s lawyers that a president cannot be found guilty of obstruction of justice signaled a controversial defense strategy in the wide-ranging Russia probe, as Trump’s political advisers are increasingly concerned about the legal advice he is receiving.

.. Trump tweeted over the weekend that he knew then-national security adviser Michael Flynn lied to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador before firing him in February — and before FBI Director James B. Comey said Trump asked him to be lenient while investigating Flynn. Experts said the president’s admission increased his legal exposure to obstruction-of-justice charges

.. Trump’s personal lawyer John Dowd sought to excuse the president’s tweet in part by telling Axios and NBC News on Monday that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case.”

Dowd declined to elaborate on his theory or explain the emerging legal strategy to The Washington Post.

Inside the White House, some senior officials were baffled that Dowd publicly offered this interpretation of the law, which has been advanced since the summer by constitutional scholar Alan Dershowitz in defense of Trump but flatly dismissed by many other legal scholars.

.. “It’s interesting as a technical legal issue, but the president’s lawyers intend to present a fact-based defense, not a mere legal defense,” Cobb said in an interview with The Post.
“We have a president, not a king,”
.. “No one is above the law, whether it be Trump or any of his close associates. It’s the sort of desperate claim that makes you wonder, ‘What exactly are they hiding?’”
.. “You cannot charge a president with obstruction of justice for exercising his constitutional power to fire Comey and his constitutional authority to tell the Justice Department who to investigate, who not to investigate,” Dershowitz said. “That’s what Thomas Jefferson did, that’s what Lincoln did, that’s what Roosevelt did. We have precedents that clearly establish that.”
.. Dershowitz was appearing on “Fox & Friends,” a pro-Trump morning show that the president regularly watches. After his appearance, Trump tweeted, “A must watch: Legal Scholar Alan Dershowitz was just on @foxandfriends talking of what is going on with respect to the greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. political history.”
.. Furthermore, he wrote, “the president has the constitutional authority to stop the investigation of any person by simply pardoning that person.”

.. Cobb and Dowd have urged Trump to cooperate fully with Mueller’s investigation, providing documents when asked by the special counsel and encouraging White House staffers to comply with requests for interviews.

.. Cobb and Dowd also have been privately assuring the president that the Mueller probe was likely to reach its conclusion by the end of this year, complete with a public exoneration of Trump of any wrongdoing.
.. In Monday’s interview, Cobb said he still believes Mueller’s investigation of Trump will reach “an appropriate result” by Christmas or early January.
.. Stephen K. Bannon — have been grumbling for weeks that the president’s legal strategy is too compliant with Mueller and not combative enough.
.. “The concern is that every time the president feels a little bit of pain from what Mueller’s doing, [his lawyers] give him OxyContin and tell him he’ll be fine by the morning,” this strategist said metaphorically
.. Cobb said, “There’s no question that Bannon is doing the president a great disservice by agitating persistently on this issue. Internally, where people are actually informed, there’s no consternation about the decision to cooperate fully with the special counsel, and Mr. Bannon has yet to identify what fights he would pick and how constructive that would be.”

.. In 1999, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a senator from Alabama, argued that Clinton should be removed from office for obstructing justice in the investigation into his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.“The facts are disturbing and compelling on the president’s intent to obstruct justice,” Sessions said at the time.

Richard Cordray’s Political Stunt

Democrats pretend that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is its own branch of government.

This fiasco underscores that the CFPB is a rogue agency whose structure is an affront to the Constitution’s separation of powers. A panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in PHH Corp. v. CFPB that the “independence” Mr. Frank so prizes is unconstitutional and that the bureau’s director must be subject to presidential authority.

.. Democrats created an executive-branch agency insulated from Congressional appropriations and presidential control, and now they claim to be able to run it like a branch of government unto itself with a self-sustaining directorship. This is a perversion of constitutional government that the President is right to resist and the courts should reject.