Updates | The Week of June 12, 2017
Special counsel Robert Mueller has requested interviews with high-ranking intelligence officials, and is investigating potential obstruction of justice by President Trump. Reports of Mueller's potential firing are helping to break down political norms.
Against Type Briefs
Filing an amicus brief joined by Republicans critical of the Trump Administration and with some claim of expert knowledge made by these Republicans related to the constitutional issues can be a powerful tactic to use in courts.
States And The Emoluments Clause
In a new lawsuit, Maryland and D.C. allege that the President's violations of the Emoluments Clauses harm their sovereign, quasi-sovereign, and proprietary interests. Those interests get special solicitude in federal court.
Updates | The Week of May 29, 2017
Analysis provided of President Trump's daily briefing, Vice President Pence's commencement speech, and the proper framing of the judiciary's role during this Administration.
Updates | The Week of May 15, 2017
Extensive commentary continued this week on the firing of FBI Director James Comey. Reports that President Trump asked Director Comey to stop the FBI’s Flynn investigation threw the White House into even greater turmoil. The Justice Department appointed Robert Mueller III, former FBI Director, special counsel of its Russia investigation.
Updates | The Week of May 8, 2017
President Trump's unexpected dismissal of FBI Director James Comey shocked the legal world. The White House's explanations for the firing changed over the course of the week and were contradicted in testimony before Congress by Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, deepening concerns over the President's motivations.
Updates | The Week of April 24, 2017
The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security has opened an investigation after U.S. Customs and Border Protection sent a summons to Twitter seeking to identify the person behind an anti-Trump Twitter account. At Balkinzation, Michael Klarman discussed how the election of President Trump supports the Framers’ concern that democracy would ultimately lead to the election of a demagogue.
Updates | The Week of April 3, 2017
President Trump's legal authority to conduct a war against ISIL is being challenged. He also believes he is immune from suits challenging his private conduct while in office.
It Was Legal for the President to Fire Comey. That’s the Problem.
It’s already too late in the day to trust the executive branch to police itself. That lack of trust should extend to a special prosecutor, independent counsel, or whatever other nice terms you want to call it. At this point, only Congress can credibly investigate the President.
GSA, Trump International Hotel, and the Constitution
Yesterday, the General Services Agency surprised experts by declaring that the Trump Hotel in D.C. is not in violation of its lease. But the GSA's decision itself might well violate the Domestic Emoluments Clause.
No Peeking? Korematsu and Judicial Credulity
The Supreme Court's decision in the Japanese Internment Cases offers a chilling reminder of why courts cannot close their eyes to clear evidence of bigotry in executive orders supposedly justified by security concerns.
The Comey Affair And Evidence Of Motive
The Comey affair underscores that decisionmakers must look beyond the administration’s “official” documents to determine the administration’s motives.
President Trump Shouldn't Be Impeached If He Hasn't Committed a Crime
It would be a grave mistake to call for President Trump's impeachment if he hasn't committed a crime. In an era of tit-for-tat partisanship, lowering the impeachment standard to “anything Congress thinks is wrong” is a recipe for dysfunctional government, one in which the House of one party could perpetually threaten to impeach the White House of another.
The Comey Firing in (Comparative) Context
President Trump’s abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey prompted two immediate questions: Is the firing legal, and is this a constitutional crisis? But are these even the right questions to pose?
An Update on DACA
The President's words indicate he is open to honoring DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program). But his actions (and inactions) suggest otherwise.
Trump and the Decline of the American Middle
Do our constitutional arrangements predict just the kind of political failure that materialized in November 2016? If so, does that mean that the long-term remedy for that failure lies in constitutional reform? Does our constitutional fate determine our political fate?
As long as the Deputy Attorney General is writing memos making recommendations to the President, it is time to make a recommendation for the appointment of a special counsel.
Nunes Recuses. Sort Of. Now What?
Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Devin Nunes will step aside from the committee’s Russia investigation. Sort of. What does this mean -- and what comes next?
Loyalty and Disloyalty in Trump’s America
The ugly history of loyalty oaths lies along a road on which Trump's "Loyalty Day" proclamation takes a frightening first step, one wrapped in a false version of the American flag.
What Happens Next for the ACA?
President Trump has said that “the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode,” and there’s a lot he can do to make that explosion a reality. Here is what you need to know about what might come next.
Animus, Past and Present
In a new op-ed, Erwin Chemerinsky and I argue that the entry ban is unconstitutional because it was driven by animus toward Muslims.
Trump’s Advisors Need to Step Up, Or Step Out
Astounding revelations have erased any reasonable doubt that the President’s shortcomings endanger global security. The time has come to focus on Executive Branch officials who have a duty to guide and, if necessary, constrain Trump. They need to step up, or step out.
Why Trump’s Firing of Comey is Terrifying
Our country has a very strong, very important norm of apolitical law enforcement. But this norm, ironically, is enforced mostly by politics, not law—and Trump’s action has risked doing it irreparable damage. Going forward, here's what to watch at the state and federal levels.
The Contingency of Partisanship
Both history and recent events make clear that President Trump can’t rely on partisan allegiance alone to save his presidency.
Judicial Deference to President Trump
It is time to ask: Has Trump in effect forfeited some measure of judicial deference across contexts and cases, through his disrespect for the courts and the rule of law and his displays of prejudice and arbitrary decisionmaking? And if he has not yet reached that point, what more would it take?
The Rule of Law and the Resistance Police
Trump’s defenders have long ascribed illegitimate motives to his critics. Now they’re doing that to the judges who have found Trump’s policies unlawful. That’s not okay.
The (Other) Dark Side Of The Comey Affair
James Comey’s firing threatens more than just the rule-of-law norm against self-investigation. It also threatens the rule-of-law norm against politically motivated policing and prosecutions.
Why Impeachment Must Remain A Priority
The appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller must not lead progressives to put the thought of impeaching President Trump on a back-burner.
Ten Questions for a New FBI Director
By Allison Murphy: Given President Trump’s documented and acknowledged efforts to interfere with the independence of the FBI, the Senate should presume that could continue under a new FBI Director. It is therefore incumbent upon Senators to ensure that any Trump nominee for FBI Director commits to certain baseline aspects of independence and impartiality before any new nominee is confirmed. Here are 10 questions that require answers.
Why Firing Comey Guts DOJ's Main Defense of the Muslim Ban
Sometimes, when an emissary of the President asks courts to “trust us,” things the President does elsewhere can fatally undermine judicial confidence in the President’s respect for rule of law values. We’ve seen it before and we’re about to see it again.
Reliance Defenses in the Trump Era and Beyond
The transition to President Trump has massively shifted federal enforcement priorities. Does the Constitution protect people who relied on Obama's immigration, healthcare, or marijuana policies?
A Reply to Larry Solum
A response to Professor Solum’s comments on my posts about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
When Free Speech Suits the President
A federal judge has refused to dismiss a suit alleging that President Trump incited violence against protesters at one of his campaign rallies last year. The bitter irony to Trump's defense is that it seeks to expand free speech rules; usually, he prefers to trash them.
The Constitutional Challenge To The CFPB
The major constitutional challenge to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rests on the claim that the President of the United States does not have enough power over the agency.
Why Trump's Motives Do (And Don't) Matter — The Comey/Flynn Incident
While inquiries into motive need not control legal analysis of Trump's recent conduct, such questions will inevitably shape public (and legal) understanding in profound ways. Sadly, that means we're all about to voyage still deeper into Trump's psyche. This may be a path to madness, but there is no other way forward.
The Rule of Law Means Little If The President’s Word Means Nothing
In a new op-ed, I emphasize the importance of taking President Trump at his word–even as efforts to save his executive orders from his tweets inevitably push Trump's defenders to come up with new and creative reasons for ignoring Trump's public statements.
Announcing Take Care
Take Care is a new collaborative blog that will provide insightful, accessible, and timely analysis of whether the President is adhering to legal limits on his authority.
Versus Trump: "What About Congress? + Steven Wu"
On a new episode of Versus Trump, Take Care's podcast, Easha, Jason, and Charlie discuss Congress's role and powers in investigations of the Executive. Then, Jason talks with Steven Wu, a Deputy Solicitor General in the Office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, about the case against Trump University, the active role of states in recent years, and other issues in which New York is adverse to the President. Listen now!
Trump, Trust, and the 25th Amendment
Imagine that the President lacked credibility entirely, whether because he was a pathological liar or because his lying was – hypothetically speaking – one symptom of a narcissistic personality disorder. Would there be anything the American people or government officials should or could do about it, short of waiting until the end of the President’s term.
Why Hasn’t Rod Rosenstein Recused Himself From the Russiagate Probe?
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should recuse himself from the probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia and the President’s apparent attempt to obstruct the FBI’s inquiry. Rosenstein himself played a key role in the events at the center of the controversy, and his continued involvement casts a shadow over the ongoing investigation.
Those Who Do Not Know History
On the first full day of Passover, the Trump Administration offered several lessons about institutionalized racism and ethnic cleansing.
Remarks at the Boston March for Truth
"Whether the structural safeguards the Framers inscribed in the Constitution are up to the task of constraining Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are anybody’s guess. In the end, only the force of public opinion, especially as expressed in elections, can save American democracy."
SCOTUS Warns Against Appointing "Unfit Characters"
A decision this week reminds us that President Trump is bound by laws, which he is violating, in making key appointments. The Acting U.S. Trade Representative, for instance, might well be occupying that role unlawfully.
What If There’s a Fake Tape?
Many are speculating about whether President Trump recorded his conversations with fired FBI Director Jim Comey, and Wikileaks has even offered a reward for any Trump-Comey recordings. But new technology allows creation of fake recordings with real people's voices. Now is a good time to start thinking about this technology's implications for our democracy and legal system.
Dark Money and Judicial Nominations Under Trump (And Beyond)
Our treasure of an independent judiciary is built upon an assumption of independence, of transparency about influence and potential conflicts, and accountability to the democratic process. When massive amounts of dark corporate money can affect those political processes, we are in grave danger of damaging that national treasure.
Trump’s Approach to Crime & Punishment
The president has continued existing policies, but also signaled a misplaced (and dangerous) reliance on immigration enforcement and incarceration to protect the public.
Presidential Bad Faith
If the President cannot be trusted to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” then that obligation falls on “We the People."
Versus Trump Podcast: Prosecuting Trump FAQ + James Williams
On today's two-part episode of Versus Trump, Take Care's podcast, we answer three burning questions related to whether the sitting President can face criminal charges, and how that prosecution could be started. We also have an interview with James Williams, the County Counsel for Santa Clara County, where he discusses his County's lawsuit against Trump Administration that has so far successfully prevented the Trump Administration from enforcing an executive order that would have withdrawn federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities.
First Tragedy, Now Farce
Those who forget history are indeed doomed to repeat it. But when history repeats, it often shifts in the repetition: first acts come as tragedy and then return as farce. By many measures, Nixon was a tragic figure. Trump, by contrast, is pure farce. And unlike tragedies, farces don’t end with a flash of recognition—a moment of self-awareness like King Lear’s on the heath. Farces just keep going until someone cries "enough!"
Updates | The Week of March 27, 2017
The United States failed to appear before hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights last week, prompting questions on whether the Trump Administration believes in the rule of law. On the domestic front, the Trump Administration proposed eliminating funding for the Legal Services Corporation, a cut that would fall on the heads of the poor, rural voters who make up President Trump's base.
Updates | The Week of March 20, 2017
President Trump doubled down on his attacks on the judiciary. His “adversarial relationship with the truth” continued wrecking havoc for his staff.