Accuracy in Media


President Trump should quit using all those powers of the presidency granted to him in the Constitution, or agencies and legal scholars will be so upset they may try to prune some of those powers, according to a story Sunday in the Washington Post.

“President Trump’s exercise of his executive powers, particularly in matters of national security, is increasingly unsettling an array of legal scholars, including conservatives, who say it risks corroding the office of the presidency and has roiled relations between the White House and other agencies,” wrote Ellen Nakashima in the lead of her story: “’It breeds resistance’: Even among conservatives, Trump’s use of presidential power causes alarm.”

He does not consult the Office of the Pardon Attorney before he exercises his power to pardon, Nakashima wrote, noting Trump “granted clemency to a number of individuals, including his political ally Joe Arpaio …”

He revokes security clearances against disgruntled fired employees who held highly sensitive posts in the government – a power previous presidents have opted not to use. “Last month, Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, one of his harshest critics, who has called ‘treasonous’ Trump’s validation of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the expense of U.S. intelligence agencies that concluded Moscow sought to help Trump win the White House.”

And this month, he had the nerve to order the declassification of documents from the Mueller investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion because those documents helped his case – only to pull back and call for additional scrutiny of the release by security officials after allies expressed concern.

“Constitutionally, such actions are defensible,” Nakashima wrote. “But the president is ‘eviscerating precedent and procedure,’ said David Rivkin, a conservative constitutional lawyer who was an attorney in the George H.W. Bush and Reagan administrations.”

If Trump doesn’t stop, others are likely to try to take away his presidential powers, Nakashima wrote.

“Trump’s unorthodox approach – taking actions, in many cases, without consulting key advisers – may bring a much-needed shake-up to the federal bureaucracy, some conservative scholars say. But others say it not only risks eroding the norms of government, but also may lead Congress and the courts to erect guardrails that constrain the presidency, leaching it of the flexibility integral to its effectiveness.”

In short, if the president doesn’t stop using executive powers, Congress and the courts may try to take them away, which would limit presidential “effectiveness.”

“Security clearances are supposed to be granted to those who have a need to know in order to plan and execute foreign policy,” a law school professor at Claremont-McKenna College in California, said. “It’s hard to imagine that John Brennan, who is calling the president a traitor, has a need to know after he has left office … I don’t think it’s irrational or unseemly to revoke his clearance.”  

Nakashima returned to her theme – that President Trump does not discuss his moves with all the relevant Washington bureaucrats.

“National security experts were unnerved by Trump’s use of his pardon power,” she wrote. “No modern president has exercised it as he has – that is, so early and frequently in a presidency and mostly without input from the Justice Department’s pardon attorney, who reviews clemency petitions and makes recommendations to the White House based on applicants’ post-conviction conduct, their character, acceptance of responsibility, and remorse.”

Arpaio, she noted, was pardoned before he was even sentenced.

She says “Stripping Brennan of his security clearance was widely seen as political retaliation” for his relentless attacks on Trump on CNN, where he now works, and quotes David Rivkin, a Bush-aligned Republican lawyer, saying, “It’s just unseemly” to do so.

“You’ve got to work through the system,” Rivkin goes on to say. “You cannot just say, ‘I’m going to strip clearances on my own.’ It sets up a pernicious dynamic. He absolutely can do it, constitutionally, but it’s not wise.”




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