Stephen Hunter

Unknown Powers

(Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash)

Stephen Hunter wonders, “What presidential powers does Trump possess that we don’t even know about?” A valid concern as the next election approaches.

 

Fear and trembling are the order of the day in America. Depending on your news source, you can pick and choose the focus for your existential angst. Here’s one. This past March, President Trump made an enigmatic claim: “I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about.” Sounds ominous, but what is he talking about? What things?

Here in Washington, D.C. the bland, everyday greeting, “How ya doin’?” has been replaced by the less casual and more desperate, “What’s keeping you up at night?” If asked this, you know immediately it’s the presidential election that’s being invoked.

Most respond to this question with variations on the theme of impending chaos and doom. Ballots lost. Ballots found. Ballots ignored. Ballot boxes stuffed. Fifteen-mile long lines at polling stations. Results not known for weeks. Lawyers everywhere. Levels of cheating not seen since your high school Student Council days. The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming. Apocalyptic plot lines mostly dealing with what Trump might or might not do under a plethora of “what-if” scenarios. It’s the end of the democratic experiment or the end of life as we know it or at least the end of my right to own an assault rifle. The death of God. The Rapture. Dogs and cats living together. It’s all pretty dramatic stuff.

Well, according to Gary Hart, that’s all pretty bottom drawer stuff. If we really knew what was going on, we’d not only be up at 2:00 a.m. staring at the ceiling, we’d be out of bed pacing in circles, pulling out our hair, and wondering if we could end it all by hurling ourselves out the window.

 

Hart’s recently formed a bipartisan group called, “Keep Our Republic.” Their late-night ruminations center around a little known but powerful set of secret presidential powers.

 

Remember Gary Hart? He an ex-U.S. Senator from Colorado. He was also the leading contender for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination until he was caught with Donna Rice (hint: not Mrs. Hart) on his lap. He’s unusually erudite for a politician with the hair of a Kennedy and the mien of an English professor. Well, along with a number of other concerned politicos, Hart’s recently formed a bipartisan group called, “Keep Our Republic.” Their late-night ruminations center around a little known but powerful set of secret presidential powers; a set of 50 – 60 “presidential emergency action documents” that can be invoked without any congressional or judicial oversight or even awareness.

One such power, we know about, we used to read about it in school: the suspension of habeas corpus. Habeas corpus (literal translation: “shall have the body”) is the legal standard that insures that, if you are arrested, you are guaranteed to be brought before a judge (i.e., the right to a trial). Without it, you could be snatched off the streets, locked up with the key thrown away, all at the whim of the government. (Thought experiment; absent habeas corpus, think back to the 2016 election with Trump whipping up his crowds with chants of “lock her up.”) Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War, and it remains a precedent for unilateral presidential action.

Keep Our Republic is conjecturing that this set of 50 – 60 presidential powers might also include such nuggets as the free use of warrantless search and seizures, and the right to impose martial law. If you don’t think these are worrisome in the hands of the Trump administration, especially given its Justice Department, then, god love ya, you deserve your sound forty winks.

What Hart and his group are asking for is the full list of these powers be made public, at least to Congress. Let’s know, at minimum, exactly what they are. It’s the old anti-vampire strategy of using sunlight as a disinfectant. However, it must be kept in mind that sunlight also allows things to grow. Because the fear is, Trump might play one of these more autocratic cards if it looks like he’s losing.

Well, it looks like he’s losing.

 

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