A National Emergency on the Border?

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 Government Shutdown – Another Step towards the Constitutional Precipice

Government shutdowns have occured many times in US history. They are a predictable result of a backdrop of constitutional and public law easily exposed to party polarization. And yet, the present government shutdown represents a new step forward to the precipice on which Trump is taking America’s constitutional democracy, which makes it distinctive for reasons not just of duration.

Continue Reading →

Birthright Citizenship and Presidential Power

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 →

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 →

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 →