There were two extraordinary stories that seemed to explode this past week. One involving possible discussions by top Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials about a plan to remove President Trump from office, and the other involving President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to enable him to access federal funds, previously allocated by Congress for other purposes, to pay for the wall he seeks to build along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Both stories, as they say, “have legs,” and there will no doubt be more news about them in the next few days.
It would seem unthinkable that Americans would be asking the question as to whether high officials of the DOJ and FBI actually met to seriously discuss a plan to remove President Trump from office. Yet according to former acting FBI director, Andrew McCabe, just such a meeting took place between himself and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the main topic was the feasibility of invoking the 25th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
While most know that the Constitution sets forth a complicated and drawn out process involving the Congress, Senate and the Supreme Court for impeaching and removal of a president for committing “high crimes and misdemeanor,” few are aware that the 25th Amendment provides a much shorter and direct method, one that requires showing that a president “is unable to perform or discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Whatever one feels about President Trump’s stewardship of the nation, to suggest that he is “unable” to function has to be a stretch. So we would like to have been the proverbial fly on the wall at that meeting.
Anyway, Senator Lindsay Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced a hearing to investigate what did or did not happen at the meeting. Needless to say, we plan to follow those proceeding very closely.
On the wall front, When Trump declared a national emergency to free up funds for wall construction after Congress refused to grant him an amount he said he needed, he invoked a particular statute permitting him to use even wholly-unrelated, but already allocated funds to meet the emergency.
Almost immediately critics said his direct end run around Congress was unconstitutional because, according to the Constitution, Congress has the final say about where federal money is to be spent. In fact, several lawsuits were promptly filed asserting that the president, indeed, acted unconstitutionally.
The problem is, the very statute invoked provides a complicated procedure for Congress to force the president to abandon his monetary claim, which by no means sets up a slam dunk situation. So it is hard to understand the argument of unconstitutionality at the outset, since the applicable statute itself anticipates a circumstance where a president would operate against the wishes of Congress and yet his action might be sustained.
Anyway more of this issue will no doubt break within the next few days.