[NEVERMIND — It turned out the source that triggered this was from a satire site. This is not the post you are looking for. Move along.]
Recently, I commented upon a tweet of President Trump’s that was internally contradictory. Today, I was reading another article where a statement from Press Secretary Sean Spicer just blew my mind. Here’s the statement (from this article) — take note of the phrase I have emboldened:
Asked by several reporters to clarify the full extent of the president’s power, or in other words, its limitations – if they exist – Spicer argued that the Constitution “clearly states” what the President of the United States can and cannot do. “However,” he added, “one must also recognize the fact that our Constitution was written quite a while ago and, as such, isn’t ideal when it comes to facing the issues that plague the American society nowadays. One of those issues is also the limit of the president’s power. Just like our language and many other things that are typically American, our Constitution is also a living thing that changes and evolves as time goes by. And if it doesn’t do so on its own, then it has us, the people of America, to help it. However, seeing how the people already have more than enough on their plate these days, the president has decided not to bother you folks with such boring decisions.”
One of the major complaints of the Republican Party has been activist judges interpreting the Constitution in the way that the founders never intended. This has been a primary argument of those desiring particular Supreme Court judges. In fact, one of the reasons that Trump’s nominee was such a concern to Democrats is that he was a strict interpreter. Trump, during his campaign, endorsed strict interpretation. Yet look at the statement again: “our Constitution is also a living thing that changes and evolves as time goes by.” That seems to be the argument that the Democrats have been making — so why aren’t the Republicans up in arms about this statement.”
As for the issue of limiting Presidential power: the desire for that limitation shouldn’t be based on the individual that occupies the office. It seems that the Republicans wanted all sorts of limitations on Presidential power when Obama was in office. One would think they would want such limitations under Trump, because eventually Trump will be replaced by a Democrat.
Then again, there is this statement by Spicer:
“For example, President Trump not only has the power to fire Robert Mueller; he also has the legal ability and right to cancel and disband the Supreme Court of the United States as well, should he feel the need for it. And no one could argue with such a decision.”
Say that again? The Supreme Court is defined in the Constitution. He cannot disband it and fire all the members — that would be a clear violation of the constitution. There is also a long standing precedent about judicial legitimacy (see Episode 1 here) going back to the days of Marbury v Madison, which established the authority of the Supreme Court to declare Congressional and Presidential actions and laws unconstitutional. Given the length that this precedent has been standing, Trump’s legal team would need a very strong basis to overturn it — and arguing a flexible Constitution isn’t it.
In short: Yes, the President can fire Executive Department members, as the head of the Executive Branch. However, if those actions can be shown to be attempts to impede investigations, there can be charges of obstruction of justice (and yes, Mr. Gingrich, the President can be guilty of obstruction — look at Nixon and Clinton). The President cannot fire members of Congress or their staff. He cannot fire the Supreme Court; they are hired by Congress and serve for life or until they retire.
This is why it is vitally important that Congress — not the FBI — appoint an independent investigator to look into all charges related to Russia and its interference with American politics, into conflicts of interest that impact government decisions, and to use of elected and appointed offices for personal gain. That will insulate the investigator from Presidential interference. As with President Obama, I’m sure that if the investigator concludes there is nothing to see, everyone will believe it.