US presidency gains more power with Trump’s acquittal

US presidency gains more power with Trump’s acquittal

US presidency gains more power with Trump’s acquittal

By / USA News / Monday, 10 February 2020 05:59

President Donald Trump’s impeachment acquittal has delivered the White House a fresh coat of power, sparking worries over the rise of an “imperial presidency.”            

His victory in the Senate trial on Wednesday accelerated a decades-long shift in the US government in which Congress has steadily ceded authority to the Oval Office.

Trump, though, has sparked anxiety: he flaunts his power, and has an attorney general who favors a strong presidency and a Republican Party unwilling to restrain him.

“President Trump is functionally a monarch at this point. If the king does it, it’s okay.” After suffering under the British king, the architects of the US system of government crafted a constitution in 1789 that gave the legislature strong checks on the powers of the new nation’s chief executive.

Congress did require him to obtain approval to make war on Al-Qaeda and Iraq. But they gave him broad authority, allowing the “War on Terror” to extend to Syria, Yemen and Africa under Bush and his successors.

Nearly two decades later, Congress worries that Trump could use the same powers to go to war with Iran. But the lawmakers are too at odds to do anything about it.

Lawmakers held the upper hand mostly through the early 20th century, until, faced by existential emergencies the Great Depression and then World war II president Franklin Roosevelt rode roughshod over Congress to take action.

Since then, “we have seen a steady increase over time in the independent powers of the presidency,” said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.

Republican George W. Bush went far beyond his statutory authorities to order actions like secret surveillance of Americans and abduction and torture of foreign fighters, claiming he had the right to do so to protect the country.

Having criticized Bush for abusing his war powers, Obama personally signed off on scores of secret drone attacks on terror targets, until even he admitted that there was need for a formal review process.

He created a number of administrative bodies led by powerful “czars” that could institute regulations without going through Congress, and made top-level appointments when Congress was in recess to avoid a contentious approval process.

When in 2014 the Republican House leader threatened a court challenge, Obama quipped: “So sue me.” Trump branded Obama’s use of executive orders as “power grabs.” But he now taps that authority far more brashly.

He skips Congress to appoint senior officials by designating them “acting”; he declared a “national emergency” to divert billions of dollars of Pentagon money to build a border wall; and he cited national security to effectively ban Muslims from entering the country.


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