Trump Claims Power to Bypass Limits Set by Congress in Defense Bill

In a signing statement that the White House quietly issued after 9 p.m. on Monday — about six hours after Mr. Trump signed the bill in a televised ceremony at Fort Drum in New York — Mr. Trump deemed about 50 of its statutes to be unconstitutional intrusions on his presidential powers, meaning that the executive branch need not enforce or obey them as written.

Among them was a ban on spending military funds on “any activity that recognizes the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea,” the Ukrainian region annexed by Moscow in 2014 in an incursion considered illegal by the United States. He said he would treat the provision and similar ones as “consistent with the president’s exclusive constitutional authorities as commander in chief and as the sole representative of the nation in foreign affairs.”

.. The statement was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s emerging broad vision of executive power. His personal lawyers, for example, have claimed that his constitutional authority to supervise the Justice Department means that he can lawfully impede the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election no matter his motive, despite obstruction-of-justice statutes.

.. The American Bar Association in 2006 took the position that presidents should not use signing statements, but should instead veto legislation if it has constitutional defects so that Congress has an opportunity to override that veto if lawmakers disagree. But presidents of both parties, including Barack Obama, have continued to use them, with current and former executive branch lawyers arguing that the focus should be on the credibility of the legal theories that presidents invoke when they make their objections.

Trump swallows a bitter pill on Russia

Moscow is furious at new sanctions as the White House complains of Congressional interference in foreign policy.

President Donald Trump plans to sign a congressional law restricting his ability to lift sanctions on Russia, the White House said Friday night, in a severe blow to his budding relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

.. “Congress would have overriden the veto, and all it will do is fuel the fire of the Russia scandal in Washington.”

.. The timing of the announcement—late on a summer Friday, amid headlines about White House staff turmoil—ensured relatively little coverage for what analysts called a major development in U.S.-Russia relations.

..  It requires Trump to justify in writing any effort to ease sanctions on Russia and mandates an automatic Congressional review of any such move.

That severely limits Trump’s ability to cut a deal with Putin, whose top priority is the rollback of U.S. and European sanctions against his economy and associates.

WTO: The U.S. Must Really not Like Seung Wha Chang

The U.S. veto was based not on Chang’s lack of qualification, but on his decisions. This sets a highly dangerous precedent, which the U.S. may come to regret. In the future, any WTO member can follow the U.S. example and veto the reappointment of judges it considers inappropriate.

.. As the consensus principle applies in the organization, in effect giving every member state a veto, such behavior could, in a worst-case scenario, completely stall the dispute settlement system. Why is the U.S. taking such a risk by rocking the system?

.. One simple reason is that most of the disputes that the U.S. has been engaged in have concerned the EU and China — highly important trading partners that are not yet covered by bilateral trade agreements. China, the EU and the U.S. appear most frequently as parties to disputes at the WTO, indicating how heavily the largest economies in the world rely on the dispute settlement system.

.. Could it have been intended as an attempt to make such reappointments a political exercise, similar to the appointment of judges to the U.S. Supreme Court? If so, the U.S. has totally misjudged the difficulty of managing multilateral relations to reach political consensus. This seems unlikely.