Executive power

  • November 27, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Paul Bland, Executive Director, Public Justice

    It has become common knowledge in Washington that, if you want to bury bad news, the best time to do so is on a Friday afternoon, or over a holiday weekend. So it is especially telling that, when it came time to strike at one of the most effective agencies in the federal government, the Trump Administration chose a two-for and announced its plans for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Friday evening over Thanksgiving weekend. While most of the country was (the White House hoped) distracted by black Friday sales and family gatherings, President Trump announced he had installed Mick Mulvaney – who once referred to the CFPB as a “sad sick joke” – as acting director of the agency. The move is just the latest in a long line of Presidential appointments designed to dismantle government agencies from the inside by placing their fiercest critics in charge of their work. But Trump’s move at the CFPB is probably illegal, politically risky, and could backfire in a big way.

  • November 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Debbie Smith, Associate General Counsel for Immigration Law, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

    Even as the newest Muslim ban works its way through the courts, President Trump has initiated another assault against immigrants by terminating a program providing humanitarian relief to immigrants fleeing civil war and natural disasters. Despite 30 years of Democratic and Republican administrations’ recognition of the importance of continuing this protection, unless Congress intervenes or the administration changes its mind, it is about to end.

    Last Monday, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 2,500 Nicaraguans and left in limbo the fate of 57,000 Hondurans who have lived and worked legally in the United States for decades. On Thanksgiving Day, DHS will decide the destiny of 50,000 Haitians who fled the earthquake that decimated their island. In January, DHS will consider whether 200,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S., many for over 20 years, can remain. By the end of 2018, the approximately 350,000 hardworking current TPS beneficiaries will be forced into the shadows and subject to expulsion from the U.S.

  • November 5, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Simon Lazarus

    *Simon Lazarus is a lawyer and writer who has frequently contributed to this blog on legal issues related to the health reform wars and other matters. 

    In endlessly excoriating President Barack Obama’s administration of the Affordable Care Act, ACA opponents featured a once obscure constitutional provision, the Article II clause that directs the President to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Legally, the charge that Obama had breached his “take care” obligation was patently meritless, and Obama’s assailants never took their bombast seriously enough to substantiate it, let alone fit it into a claim to take to court. 

    Indeed, no court has ever invoked the Take Care Clause as a basis for constraining alleged executive overreach. There are obvious reasons for this. If there were an articulated standard for defining a violation of the clause, it could presumably be comparatively complicated to meet it. A jumping off analogy might be former Justice William Rehnquist’s dictum, in the 1985 case Heckler v. Chaney, suggesting that courts must defer to executive branch decisions not to initiate enforcement proceedings, unless an “agency has consciously and expressly adopted a general policy that is so extreme as to amount to an abdication of its statutory responsibilities.” In that vein, to make out a violation of the president’s take care responsibility, one would likely have to demonstrate a pattern of actions that undermine a law, or laws, and – because of the clause’s focus on good faith (“faithful execution”) – actions that hamstring the law intentionally. While bad intentions can be, and often are, proven by objective, circumstantial evidence, executive officials bent on nullifying a law have presumably had sufficient savvy to cloak wrongful intent behind well-orchestrated procedures that would deter a judge from finding or a litigant from hanging her case on an allegation that they did in the law on purpose.

    Until now.

  • October 31, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Barbara McQuadeProfessor from Practice, University of Michigan Law School, and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan

    *This piece was originally published on The Daily Beast.

    The unsealing of the indictment charging former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was only the second-most significant piece of news Monday. 

    The more significant news was the guilty plea of former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who was arrested in July and entered a guilty plea about three weeks ago. The documents revealing those facts were also unsealed today. And the timing of the two being filed on the same day is likely no coincidence.

    While the Manafort charges are important because of the role he played as one-time Trump campaign chairman, the charges themselves allege improper financial transactions and failure to disclose foreign lobbying activities, offenses that are unrelated to the Trump campaign. Rick Gates, Manafort’s business partner and a Trump campaign official, was also charged. The charges against Manafort may provide leverage to encourage him to cooperate in the investigation, but the charges against Papadopoulos relate directly to connections between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

  • October 30, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Victoria Bassetti

    *Victoria Bassetti is leading ACS' analysis of US Attorneys.

    While campaigning for office, President Trump actively courted National Rifle Association members. "The eight-year assault on your Second Amendment freedoms has come to a crashing end,” President Trump said during a speech earlier this year at the NRA’s leadership forum. "[You] have a true friend and champion in the White House," he told them.

    His nominees to be U.S. Attorneys, the top federal law enforcement officers throughout the states, show he meant it.