By Ronnie Nathan
Both national soap operas highlight the necessity of reigning in the Imperial Presidency. From my point of view, as serious as withholding arms from Ukraine for purely selfish reasons may be, the most significant charges against the President are illegally sabotaging Congress’ allocation of funds and refusing to comply with legally issued congressional subpoenas for witnesses and documents. Similarly, in the case of the recent episode with Iran, killing Soleimani was a good thing. Doing it without conferring with the appropriate congressional leadership in advance and failing to have a credible explanation for why Soleimani posed an imminent threat are very serious abuses of presidential power. In both cases, these abuses pose real dangers to our Constitutional balance of powers and system of checks and balances.
In the case of the impeachment issues, my Ever-Trumper friends’ best argument is that the House should have gone to court and allowed the 3rd branch of government, the federal judiciary, decide if withholding the Ukrainian military aid and the subpoenas issued by the House were legal and proper. In a perfect world they are correct. In the world we live in, however, because resolving these issues in the courts takes so long, months and even years, it is effectively not an option for restraining unfettered presidential power. We can have a new president and administration by the time the courts resolve the issue!
In the case of the Soleimani strike, this is just the latest chapter in the perennial conflict between Congress’ power to declare war and the president’s power as Commander-in-Chief. Trump and all the presidents of both parties in modern times are correct. In the case of an imminent threat there isn’t enough time and the potential for leaks eliminating military surprise preclude the possibility of getting congressional approval before taking any military action. But congressional approval and conferring with appropriate congressional leadership are two very different things. Certainly, in this most recent instance, congressional leadership could have been and should have been informed and included in the decision-making process, even acknowledging the President as the Decider-in-Chief.
Trump should be impeached and removed from office for illegally sabotaging Congress’ allocation of funds and refusing to comply with legally issued congressional subpoenas for witnesses and documents. Every future president should be prevented as a result of this consequence for engaging in this unconstitutional abuse of presidential power. He won’t be, and that will change the balance of power between the branches until a future Congress acts more responsibly, if it ever does. Congress should reassert its right to be part of the decision-making process before we launch our military against an adversary. That was the clear intent of our Founders. It hasn’t because too many politicians from both parties are afraid of taking potentially unpopular difficult votes. But that’s their job!
In both cases, this is a deeply CONSERVATIVE position and it is profoundly ironic that the party once associated with conservative principles now trumpets (pun intended) the imperial presidency on steroids!