And Op-Ed BY KIM WEHLE,at The Hill….
Amidst the incessant shock waves emanating from the Trump presidency, there’s solace to be had in one happy happenstance: people are re-learning basic civics. And in that connection, the process of effective self-governance is finally beginning to function again.
Most of us were taught in middle school that our government is one of separated powers created by three co-equal branches of government, with each checking the other two for abuses. The reason for the “three-headed boss” model is simple: the revolutionaries who fought and died for American independence from England detested autocracies. One thing’s for sure: Under the United States Constitution, a single boss of all bosses is intolerable. Period.
This is why, regardless of individual political and ideological affiliation, every American should be concerned over the steady accumulation of unchecked power by the Trump presidency. The Teflon real estate mogul who boasted of his electability notwithstanding a hypothetical murder on New York City’s 5th Avenue has, indeed, withstood scandal after scandal — any one of which would have swiftly killed the careers of every other politician in the history of the United States.
Setting aside the adultery and hush money, vulgarities and insults, lies, apparent self-dealing, and international gaffes, this president has teetered above the law like no other before him. Consider the recent court filings by the U.S. Department of Justice, effectively naming Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator in two felonies and confirming that, despite his public protestations to the contrary, the president did have conversations with transition team members about communications with Russia in the months leading up to his inauguration in 2017.
Does any such activity amount to a prosecutable crime? Beats me. An answer to that question requires consideration of all the facts, which the public does not have.
Is it impeachable? Maybe. But that’s a political judgment that only Congress can make.
So far, congressional Republicans have looked the other way rather than perform the most rudimentary of oversight. The legislative check on the executive branch has been “out of order.”
That leaves us with the two remaining branches. The second branch — the executive — is controlled by Trump himself. Special counsel Robert Mueller has a modicum of independence, to be sure. But unlike independent counsel Kenneth Starr, whose power to investigate President Clinton stemmed from an act of Congress that has since expired — Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has the legal power to slow down (or even stop) Mueller from investigating whether their joint boss, President Trump, violated the law. The fact that Whitaker has not stymied the multiple federal probes into Trump and his associates is significant. It means that career public servants are keeping things running behind closed doors — at least for now.
But what if these folks go rogue? After all, Trump himself has repeatedly assailed the FBI and people on Mueller’s team as politically motivated witch hunters. Lawyers for the Russian company Concord have also vigorously argued in federal court that the Mueller investigation has usurped the law in connection with the grand jury’s indictment of Concord and other Russian entities over alleged interference with the 2016 presidential election.
That’s where the third branch of government comes in: the courts. It’s somewhat ironic that one of the biggest national traumas of 2018 (among many) was around the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court — a spectacle that was problematic for its grotesque politicization of the federal bench, among other things. It’s ironic because federal judgeships come with life tenure — they’re uniquely designed to be apolitical.
At the end of the day, moreover, courts — to a much greater degree than legislators and agencies — are inescapably bound and limited by a set of neutral rules. Rules of evidence limit what facts judges and juries get to consider in deciding whether to put someone in jail….
Up to now?
The Federal Courts have just about the ONLY brake against Donald Trump’s Admin actions which have been sighted as ILLEGALL in more than one case…