What we watched out of the Rose Garden was not just bizarre. It was dangerous. This president admitted, for all intents and purposes, that there is no emergency. He also conceded that the courts will not like this until it reaches the Supreme Court. He expects the high court to side with him. And he believes they fully agreed with him in the Muslim ban (spoiler alert, they did not. Not all of the Ban was upheld by the court.)
However, he might have a point. With the cooperation of Mitch McConnell, they have come as close as packing the high court as you can. Trump and McConnell hope that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has to resign or die in office. That way they can finish the deed. And if that happens on January 2020, expect the Senate Leader to go through an appointment the Merrick Garland precedent notwithstanding.
We all hope that this direct attack on the House’s power of the purse is too much, even for this court. And there is more, Trump admitted on national air that this is not truly an emergency. The president conceded as much to Peter Alexander of ABC News. Alexander Tweeted:
Trump, responding to my question, concedes there’s no national emergency to justify building his wall: “I didn’t need to do this… I just want to do it faster.” That answer will complicate his legal case.
Suffice it to say this admission will not play well in the courts. Is this an actual emergency? That admission says no. So what is this about? Most Americans do not learn real technical issues in history, or abuses of power, by previous presidents. It is part of who we are as a nation, and we prefer to look forward. While people have heard of Watergate, but only because it’s the last well-known scandal and every scandal after that has been compared to it. I admit it, I do this as well. Somehow Iran Contra escapes the same scrutiny…why the name Elliot Abrams is not well known. He was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan for his work during that scandal, or he might have faced prison time. He is back in the current administration regarding Venezuela, and even major media seem to have collective amnesia.
Americans are wholly unfamiliar with Andrew Jackson. His issue of clearing lands from first peoples was just as popular with a nationalist base as the wall is today. His actions ultimately led to the Trail of Tears and the first major genocide in the American frontier.
President Jackson would not let a pesky treaty stop him. He promised this removal to his voters, to his base.
The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, authorizing the president to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders. A few tribes went peacefully, but many resisted the relocation policy. During the fall and winter of 1838 and 1839, the Cherokees were forcibly moved west by the United States government. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died on this forced march, which became known as the “Trail of Tears.”
What this summary from the Library of Congress lacks is the court fight. One of the tribes took the executive to court. Like the litany told to us by Trump, the court case made its way to the Supreme Court. And Jackson lost.
President Jackson did not care. And while what follows likely never happened, points to Jackson’s views on nullification of Federal action. This is also one of the seeds of the Civil War.
Marshall lived another nine years, during which time he won over Jefferson’s political successor, the states’ rights partisan Andrew Jackson. Marshall had initially opposed Jackson’s election to the presidency, and in the Cherokee Indians case, Worcester v. Georgia (1832), Marshall infuriated Jackson by insisting that Georgia laws that purported to seize Cherokee lands on which gold had been found violated federal treaties. Jackson is famous for having responded: “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it.” Although the comment is probably apocryphal, both Georgia and Jackson simply ignored the decision. But in 1832, when South Carolina declared that it had the power to nullify federal laws with which it disagreed, Jackson at least temporarily embraced Marshall’s vision of judicial authority, issuing a proclamation of the Supreme Court’s ultimate power to decide constitutional questions and emphasizing that its decisions had to be obeyed. When Marshall died three years later, Jackson hailed him as a national hero — but he also appointed men to the Court who would move Marshall’s nationalism in the direction of states’ rights.
Trump’s appointments gravitate towards an imperial presidency. This is one that would ignore the balance of powers. In essence, Trump’s idea of executive power is similar to Jackson’s. And we know he is a man who has not read deeply into US history, however, he admires Jackson. He is the first modern president to dig that portrait out of storage and put it in the Oval Office.
Whether this is the influence of Steve Bannon, or not, is immaterial. We also know that Trump would like to follow in the footsteps of modern authoritarian leaders. Whether that is Vladimir Putin or Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines is immaterial. From the national emergency speech, we know that the president has a disdain for the Democratic House. He finds constitutional limits to his authority grating.
The United State finds itself in a deeper constitutional crisis. It is no longer just about Russia and whether there was interference in the 2016 elections. Now, this is going to the core of the foundational documents of the nation. I for one will not be shocked if the president tells the court to try to enforce their ruling without an army. Trump is the classic essential man for whom the law does not apply.
Buckle up, this ride just started.