That question is becoming more and more acute for the rest of the world, in reference to President Donald Trump versus the rest of the Trump administration. If you were the foreign minister from a country in Europe, for example, would you believe what Trump says about American policy towards Europe and Russia, or would you believe his minions, such as the Vice President Mike Pence or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? This dilemma could become a sort of low-level ongoing crisis, since Trump's comments are so far removed from what others in his administration are saying. Who are you going to believe? The boss, or the underling who is making much more sense? That's a pretty risky geopolitical gamble to make, no matter which side you choose to believe.
Archive of Articles in the "The Constitution" Category
The two formerly-individual holidays celebrating Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday have been merged into a single federal holiday -- a holiday which, while intended to honor both Washington and Lincoln, has now become somewhat "genericized" (in name, at least) into a celebration of all our presidents. But what about the forgotten presidents? [Or, to be scrupulously accurate, "presidents"?]
While much of Washington is currently atwitter (and a-Twitter, of course) over the growing possibility that in the near future, one or more top White House advisors may be shown the door (centering, so far, around Mike Flynn, Sean Spicer, and Reince Priebus), I personally think Trump should consider cutting his losses in a different way. Palace intrigue is always fun to speculate about, of course, but aside from personalities, President Donald Trump should really consider just cutting his losses on the whole idea of a "temporary ban" on immigration. He should, in short, declare victory and move on.
Donald Trump just got thumped by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. There's no denying it. Even Kellyanne Conway can't spin her way out of this one. Three judges unanimously wrote a 29-page opinion explaining why Trump needed to be thumped. This means he can't even whine that it was a "partisan" decision, since these judges were appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents. Even more satisfying is the fact that even if the temporary restraining order which blocked implementation of Trump's Muslim ban is appealed to the Supreme Court, a 4-4 tie vote would just reconfirm the thumping the Ninth Circuit just gave Trump. We certainly hope this turns out to be just the first in a long line of setbacks the court system deals out to Trump, on a regular and continuing basis.
I had fully intended to write another column postulating that our president and a few of his advisors are nothing short of blithering idiots (you know, the usual thing), but then I got hooked into the modern world of technology and instead sat through the entire hour-long oral arguments hearing in Washington v. Trump, which turned out to be fascinating. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals helpfully live-streamed the audio of a conference call where the lawyers from the Trump administration and the state of Washington made their case to a three-judge panel, on the merits of the temporary restraining order that a district judge in Washington issued that shut down President Trump's executive order banning people from seven countries from entering the United States. So any citizen could, in effect, sit in the courtroom and hear the cases made. I have to admit a certain level of wonky awe that this is the world we live in -- where such things are not just possible, but are now routine.
But we digress. Donald Trump's Muslim ban, signed into existence as we were writing last week's column, was certainly the biggest story of the week. Spontaneous protests sprang up at international airports across the country as the chaotic implementation made it plain that this executive order just wasn't thought through all that much. Nobody knew what the order did cover and didn't cover, all the way from White House officials down to the border guards who were expected to somehow implement this vague and badly-defined policy. Clarifications had to be issued on a daily basis. The draft of the order simply did not go through any of the normal vetting channels, with some cabinet-level officials only seeing it hours before it was signed. The Trump administration is now starting to resemble (take your pick) either the gang who couldn't shoot straight or the Keystone Kops.
If it weren't such a serious subject, the irony would be downright hilarious. Yesterday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried his hand at being politically correct. Why he did so is a mystery known only to the inner workings of the Trump administration, but the eventual outcome was nothing short of utter failure -- undermined, in the end, by his own boss.
It didn't take Donald Trump long before he had a chance to use his famous catchphrase as president. He has now fired not only the Acting Attorney General, but also a growing number of high-ranking federal employees in a number of departments and agencies (the State Department, and today, the immigration enforcement agency). Whether this is a good thing for the country or even a good thing for Trump politically is debatable, of course. But no matter where you come down on the Trump firings so far, they are not in any way illegal or unconstitutional. The president has wide discretion to fire people, although only down to a certain red line.
That headline is an obvious attempt at a play on words, but while "taking the Fifth" (refusing to testify on the grounds that it would tend to incriminate you, a right guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) happens on a daily basis in America, "taking the Twenty-Fifth" has never happened -- at least not in the way some are now contemplating. I first briefly wrote about this issue two weeks ago, but since then more and more people -- from both the right and the left -- have been noticing this constitutional oddity. But few are taking the time to read the entire section, instead quoting the start of it and ignoring the rest of it, which deals with the actual procedure itself. If you seriously are considering removing the president in a constitutional coup, however, it's worth taking a strong look at the Twenty-Fifth, in full.
We know there's that pesky clause in the Constitution and all, but doesn't it seem like today would have been more appropriate for Donald Trump's inauguration? That's our way of saying "Happy Friday the 13th" to everyone, we should point out. Ahem.