With it becoming increasingly clear that Donald Trump cannot manage to stay out of legal and political trouble as a result of his many questionable business dealings and attempts to extort foreign countries to investigate his opponents, Attorney General William Barr has devised a plan for using the federal courts to make Trump immune from all oversight, according to an eye-opening article from The New Yorker.
The current AG operates from the point of view that a U.S. president has absolute power that cannot be questioned or challenged, which is something that Trump himself has suggested repeatedly over the past three years in office:
“Barr maintains that Article II of the Constitution gives a President control of all executive-branch agencies, without restriction. In practice, this means that Trump would be within his rights to oversee an investigation into his own misconduct.”
So if the FBI wanted to investigate Trump or a member of his family for any crime whatsoever, Barr would be willing to let the president limit or shut down that investigation on a whim.
But would the courts allow such a radical view of the Constitution to take hold and be applied? That depends on who you ask.
Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare doubts any federal judge or panel of judges would sign off on such a radical perversion of checks and balances:
“The idea that the President gets to assert executive privilege over material that has already been made public is laughable. I think they are very likely to lose a lot of this.”
However, former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer, who served in the administration of George W. Bush, is of the opinion that the current Supreme Court, which leans to the right, might just go along with such an expansive view of presidential power:
“The ultimate question is what happens when these reach the Supreme Court, which has two Trump appointees. There is a real danger that (Barr) succeeds … This, I believe, was his opportunity — the opportunity of a lifetime — to make major progress on advancing his vision of an all-powerful Chief Executive.”
Barr’s plan to make President Trump able to do as he pleases without any explanation or oversight will certainly be accelerated if Trump is reelected, according to NYU Law professor Stephen Gillers, who says Barr’s efforts are already well underway:
“The Congress needs information to do its job, and the President has frozen it out — especially in the impeachment investigation. Another check is the media, and the President’s use of the term ‘fake news’ can cause people to lose faith in the media. What remains are the courts, which are slow and cumbersome.”
A president who is allowed to rule without any restrictions or oversight on his actions is no longer a servant of the people or the nation. He is, instead, a dictator.