Is the U.S. President Above the Law?

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 →

The Phantom Insurrection: how Counter-Insurgency Theory Became a Paradigm of Governing

We are constantly struggling to make sense of the politics of our time, to understand what links various developments and phenomena that we witness. Bernard E. Harcourt has written a book that offers such an interpretation. In "The Counterrevolution" he explains how the massive collection of data and the increasing militarization of police go together, how the changes in military and foreign policy relate to domestic US politics since 9/11, and where to place President Trump in this picture. At the occasion of his visit in Berlin, Bernard Harcourt was willing to give this brief interview and speak about the theses of his book.

Continue Reading →

The Federal Rainbow Dream: On Free Movement of Gay Spouses under EU Law

After a pretty disappointing and self-contradictory judgement on the wedding cakes delivered yesterday by the US Supreme Court, the CJEU came up today with the long-awaited decision in the Coman case – putting a thick full stop on a long debate about the interpretation of the term ‘spouses’ under the EU Free Movement Directive. In short, the Court held that the term does cover spouses of the same sex moving to an EU Member State where a gay marriage remains unrecognized. This simple YES is a huge step forward in federalizing the EU constitutional space in a time of multiple crises.

Continue Reading →

Corporate Liability for Extraterritorial Human Rights Violations – the US in Retreat?

Last week, in Jesner v. Arab Bank, the United States Supreme Court decided that foreign corporations cannot be sued in federal court for human rights violations that occurred outside the US and have no substantial link to the US. The decision is the latest piece of an ongoing debate around the question: just how far can the US meddle in affairs of other countries? More pragmatically, it makes international human rights litigation – a successful counterpart to diplomatic intervention in the past – much more difficult today.

Continue Reading →

Syria and the Humanitarian Reprisal – President Trump’s Poisonous Gift to International Law?

Among the many unwanted gifts Donald Trump has given international law as of yet, this may very well prove to be the worst: the humanitarian reprisal. Forcible countermeasures, so-called reprisals, were standard practice in order to enforce violations of international obligations at least until World War I and continued to be used and accepted even in the inter-war period. Not infrequently, they led to wider military conflicts. Thus, under the post-1945 international legal order established by the UN Charter, reprisals do not constitute licit countermeasures and in fact are covered by the prohibition of the use of force in Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

Continue Reading →

Hat das Völkerrecht die (Atom-)Waffen gestreckt? Nordkorea und ein potentieller Militärschlag der USA

Der Konflikt um das nordkoreanische Atomprogramm spitzt sich immer weiter zu. Noch bietet das klassische Völkerrecht keine Möglichkeit für die Rechtfertigung eines Militärschlages, beispielsweise durch die USA. Doch die Staatenpraxis zu nuklearen Bedrohungslagen ist in Bewegung.

Continue Reading →

More Emolument Trouble For President Trump?

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 →

Trump and the FBI: Four very quick questions and answers from SANFORD LEVINSON

US President Donald Trump, to the bewildered horror of many, has dismissed FBI director James Comey in the middle of an investigation about his aides' ties to Russia. Some even call this situation a constitutional crisis. We have shot Constitutional Law professor Sandy Levinson four very quick questions and received four equally short answers.

Continue Reading →