Declarations of emergency are in bad odor in modern constitutional democracies. the U.S. Constitution makes no provision for emergency declarations. And while the Constitution’s guidance is cryptic at best on many separation-of-powers issues, it couldn’t be clearer that Congress—not the President—has the power to appropriate funds. So: can he really do that? The better argument is that he cannot, but it’s not so open-and-shut a matter as you might suppose.Continue Reading →
The Halloween season is traditionally a time for scares and surprises in the United States. This year, President Trump got in on the act, floating a truly shocking idea on October 30. In an interview with Axios, the President declared that he intended to sign an executive order ending birthright citizenship in the United States. Before diving into the law, it is worth pausing to consider what a breathtaking idea it is that the President could unilaterally determine who counts as a citizen.Continue Reading →
On June 4, President Trump tweeted that the President has the absolute right to issue pardons, even to himself. The President’s claim came close on the heels of the New York Times’s publication of a letter two White House attorneys had sent months earlier to Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel appointed to investigate links between Trump’s election campaign and the Russian government. The lawyers argued that the President’s firing of FBI Director James Comey could not constitute obstruction of justice, because the President is the chief law enforcement officer of the nation, and can fire the FBI Director for any reason at all. Can it really be the case that the President of the United States is above the law?Continue Reading →
Emoluments is the word of the hour again in the United States. The past week saw the filing of two new lawsuits alleging that President Trump has violated one or more of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses by accepting payments and other benefits from foreign and domestic governments. What’s significant about the new suits is who the plaintiffs are. One is brought by the state of Maryland and Washington, D.C., the other by 196 members of Congress, all Democrats. Are these the plaintiffs who can get a court to rule, for the first time ever, on what “emolument” means as used in the Constitution?Continue Reading →
The election of Donald Trump to the American presidency has, among other things, brought newfound attention to one of the sleepier provisions of the U.S. Constitution. The foreign emoluments clause provides that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under [the United States], shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
Within 72 hours of his inauguration, the nonprofit government ethics group CREW has filed a constitutional complaint against President Trump in federal court. The President shot back the same day, calling the suit meritless. Does CREW have a case?