Trump Stirs Constitutional Crisis

Several federal judges around the country now have issued restraining orders, blocking parts of Trump’s controversial executive order on immigration. CNN reports, however, that the White House is maintaining that the rulings do not undercut Trump’s executive order and that it will continue to be carried out.

“A White House spokesperson defended the order Sunday, saying: ‘It is the right and duty of the President to do everything in his legal and constitutional power to protect the American people.

‘Saturday’s ruling does not undercut the President’s executive order. All stopped visas will remain stopped. All halted admissions will remain halted. All restricted travel will remain prohibited. The executive order is a vital action toward strengthening America’s borders, and therefore sovereignty. The order remains in place,’ the spokesperson said.”

So, the question now is what happens? If Trump’s White House continues to defy the courts, will a constitutional crisis emerge?

Trump’s favorite presidential role model, Andrew Jackson, famously defied a Supreme Court decision about Native-American rights (Worcester v. Georgia), declaring, “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.” The Court, in that instance, had not asked federal marshals to carry out the decision, as was standard at the time. And Jackson certainly had no intention of implementing it.

With its statement today, the Trump White House seems to be putting itself in direct opposition to the federal judiciary. Trump’s egomania will surely prevent him from feeling any need to bend to the will of federal district judges. His lack of understanding of the constitutional restraints on presidential power will lead him to defy other co-equal branches of government when he feels his authority is being “unfairly” impugned or thwarted. Here, for example, we see Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s senior advisor (some call her his Goebbels),  essentially trying to undermine the federal judiciary.

So far, the agencies tasked with carrying out Trump’s executive order seem to be falling in line with the White House, despite having been shut out of all planning and input on the order:  According to Benjamin Wittes:

NBC is reporting that the document was not reviewed by DHS, the Justice Department, the State Department, or the Department of Defense, and that National Security Council lawyers were prevented from evaluating it. Moreover, the New York Times writes that Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, the agencies tasked with carrying out the policy, were only given a briefing call while Trump was actually signing the order itself. Yesterday, the Department of Justice gave a “no comment” when asked whether the Office of Legal Counsel had reviewed Trump’s executive orders—including the order at hand. (OLC normally reviews every executive order.)

We’ll see whether the implementing agencies continue to follow Trump’s order in defiance of judicial rulings. Yes, it seems they will. Now, will federal judges, facing defiance from the executive branch, order federal marshals to arrest customs agents and CIS agents?

Fasten your seatbelts. This is going to be rocky terrain — and fascinating to see.

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