Thanks to the unprecedented act of obstruction by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the last year of the previous administration by blocking consideration of President Obama’s nominee, President Trump has managed to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing allies who are likely to fall in line with whatever outrageous policies he intends to try to implement.
However, any of the president’s most egregious behavior that his newly installed cronies on the Supreme Court may overlook will not escape the attention of the retired former justices of the court who as private citizens are free to weigh in with their educated opinions about Trump’s actions and how they relate to the Constitution.
Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens did just that this week, raising an alarm that President Trump is “exercising powers that do not really belong to him” and that there are “things we should all be concerned about” in an interview he gave to The Wall Street Journal.
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The now 99-year-old former justice believes that Trump is venturing into waters dangerous to our democracy by attempting to exercise powers that are far beyond those granted by the Constitution.
“I mean, he has to comply with subpoenas and things like that,” Stevens said in his interview.
That such an opinion is coming from a justice originally appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford discounts the possibility that Stevens’ comments come from partisan rancor rather than a scholarly interpretation of constitutional law.
Former Justice Stevens’ concern comes as President Trump has vowed to defy all efforts by congressional Democrats to perform their constitutionally required oversight of the executive branch by delving into further investigations of his campaign, his private business practices, and the actions of his administration after the damning evidence of obstruction of justice already contained in the Mueller report.
With Trump fighting to prevent Congress from accessing his tax returns and the unredacted version of the Mueller report, threatening to use the federal Justice Department’s resources to investigate his political rivals, and flouting constitutional norms at every available opportunity, the question remains whether the current members of the conservative-dominated Supreme Court will choose to protect the democratic institutions of our nation or the president who is implementing an agenda that they may personally agree with politically.
Hopefully, the current court will heed precedent and rule in favor of Congressional oversight privileges in a system of checks and balances rather than the sort of imperial presidency that the nation’s founding fathers so desperately tried to prevent from ever ruling our United States.
If they ignore the views of one of their esteemed predecessors, the Supreme Court will further undermine the public’s trust in our existing institutions and risk the eventual dissolution of our democracy.
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Original reporting by Morgan Gstalter at The Hill.