Should there be limits on presidential powers? | The Tylt

Should there be limits on presidential powers?

In dealing with the ongoing Mueller investigation, President Donald Trump surrounded himself with lawyers and legal scholars who hold maximalist views on presidential power. Attorney General William Barr continues that trend, believing presidents cannot be indicted for any crimes and have almost unlimited decision-making and legal authority. Other scholars claim Barr's definition is far too expansive and could facilitate a dictatorship. What do you think?

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In June 2018, Barr sent an unsolicited memo to the Trump legal team, arguing special counsel Robert Mueller should not be allowed to investigate the president for criminal obstruction of justice. The New York Times explains this view comes from Barr's longstanding beliefs about presidential power.

Mr. Barr’s argument derived from his broad view of executive power: The Constitution, he claimed, does not permit Congress to make it a crime for the president to exercise his executive powers corruptly — even if he were to fire a subordinate, pardon someone or use what Mr. Barr termed his “complete authority to start or stop a law enforcement proceeding” to cover up crimes by himself or his associates.
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Barr has held these beliefs for decades. When Barr took the position as head of the Office of Legal Counsel during George H.W. Bush's administration, he distributed an unsolicited memo to executive branch lawyers, warning them to be on alert for any attempt by Congress to limit the president's authority.

It is important that all of us be familiar with each of these forms of encroachment on the executive’s constitutional authority. Only by consistently and forcefully resisting such congressional incursions can executive branch prerogatives be preserved.

Barr believes it is the responsibility of the Justice Department to protect and maintain the president's authority. 

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Trump's legal team has been advising him based on this definition of presidential powers, according to the New York Times. They say any of his actions which could be considered obstruction are actually legal when taken by the chief executive.

He has unfettered authority to fire the F.B.I. director, which he did last year; to order a federal investigation opened or closed; and to pardon anyone, including felons or criminal suspects, his longtime personal lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz said in a confidential memo last June. “The president cannot obstruct himself or subordinates acting on his behalf by simply exercising these inherent constitutional powers,” he wrote.
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Constitutional scholars and historians warn, though, that an all-powerful chief executive was one of the founding fathers' greatest fears. The Washington Post reports:

A president who might act unilaterally was one of the chief fears expressed in the original debates about the Constitution. Writing in what became known as the Anti-Federalist Papers in 1787, the pseudonymous Cato warned against the presidency becoming “a Caesar, Caligula, Nero, and Domitian in America.” The system of checks and balances — giving Congress the authority to make laws and decide how money is spent, and giving the Supreme Court the last word on what laws comport with the Constitution — was supposed to rein in the president.
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Scholars also disagree on whether a president can pardon himself. According to the New York Times, as there have been no previous examples of a president acting in such a way, there is little precedent on which to base this information.

This is not clear. The only limitation explicitly stated in the Constitution is a ban on using a pardon to stop an impeachment proceeding in Congress, and the only obvious implicit limitation is that he cannot pardon offenses under state law.
But some legal scholars think a president cannot pardon himself, either, because it would be a conflict of interest.
...There is no definitive answer because no president has ever tried to pardon himself and then been prosecuted, which would give courts a chance to weigh in. If Mr. Trump did purport to pardon himself, and was later indicted anyway, it could create an opportunity for the Supreme Court to resolve the question.
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While most legal scholars believe a sitting president can't be indicted for crimes, some note a president's actions while in-office can be held against him after he leaves the White House. Per the New York Times:

If a president sold pardons for cash, though, that would violate the federal bribery statute. And if a president can be prosecuted for exchanging pardons for bribes, then it follows that the broad and unreviewable nature of the pardon power does not shield the president from criminal liability for abusing it.
...Yet federal obstruction statutes say that a person commits a crime when he “corruptly” impedes a court or agency proceeding. If it could be shown that President Trump pardoned his family members and close aides to cover up possible crimes, then that could be seen as acting “corruptly” and he could be charged with obstruction of justice. If, as some commentators believe, a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mr. Trump could still face prosecution after he leaves the White House.
FINAL RESULTS
Politics
Should there be limits on presidential powers?
#PowerToThePresident
A festive crown for the winner
#LimitThePresident