On to the Courts

On to the Courts


Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Donald Trump has decided, at least at this point, to defy Congress and not to honor any request that Congress demands for testimony or documents related to the Presidency, the Mueller report, or any activities of his Administration. He has chosen to deny Congress’ legitimate power of oversight of the Executive Branch. The President has laid down his marker that he will set all the rules for the how the country will be run. If Congress has any objections to his proceeding according to these rules, Trump has told the Congress he will meet them in Court. As he said when he was in the private sector if clients or opponents did not agree with his decisions, if you do not like what I am doing “sue me”.  (Similarly, when the President did not like the way a deal was proceeding, he would walk away and then sue the other party.)

In 2019, however, Donald Trump is the President of the United States and his actions demonstrate that he is does not respect the Constitution, the existence of three co-equal branches of Government, the separation of powers, or the rule of law. Donald Trump believes that the law is what he says it is and no one can tell him differently.  He is ruling as if he were conducting the affairs of state in an authoritarian regime not in a democracy.

President Trump believes that no court in the United States will ever force him or anyone in his Administration to countermand his orders. He believes no one must transmit any materials to Congress without his approval and no testimony will be forthcoming without his acceptance of the terms of such an appearance. He assumes that the process of litigation, probably correctly, will not produce a definitive Supreme Court ruling before the 2020 elections.  The President has concluded that he, therefore, will be able to run defiantly against the Democratic Congress.

In the meantime, there are three assumptions which President Trump has concluded. First, that Robert Mueller or someone else will not dare to defy the President’s instructions and accept the responsibility of their own actions in the name of upholding the Constitution. Second, that a point will be reached where there will be Republicans who will be demonstrate that they place the Constitution above Donald Trump. Third, his solid base of support which he has maintained throughout his 28 months will not be challenged by any of the repeated confrontations which undoubtedly will ensue over the next months.

Given the President’s conduct throughout his Presidency there unfortunately are several scenarios which also need to be considered. Will these constitutional considerations and concerns become meaningless or will they be magnified in the event of a major global crisis; either economic, political, or military? Would the President defy a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court and take the law into his own hands? Would Donald Trump contest or challenge a negative election result and challenge it as well?

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