Thursday, November 8, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He announced new anti-immigrant rules that are almost certainly illegal.

Today, Trump published rules that claim for the presidency the authority to bar asylum claims from virtually any immigrant. But since those rules conflict with existing law, they would almost certainly be struck down after the first court challenge.

Using executive orders to claim power he doesn't have is nothing new for Trump. He did the same thing almost immediately after taking office in an ill-fated attempt to ban legal travel to the United States from predominantly Muslim countries. He's also essentially ignored the emoluments clause to the Constitution by attempting—although not very successfully—to profit from foreign governments patronizing his real estate and hotel businesses.

Even his appointment yesterday of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general probably falls in this category. Whitaker had not been in the normal DOJ line of succession because he had not been confirmed by the Senate, something that is required of "principal officers" by the Constitution. (Trump himself used this line of attack months ago to declare Robert Mueller's appointment unconstitutional, but Mueller had been confirmed by the Senate, and the special counsel is not a principal officer.)

So what?

  • In a democracy, presidents don't do things they know are unlawful and dare the courts to stop them.