His Royal Highness, the President

There are way too many pictures of the various subjects of this piece already floating everywhere on the internet so you get to look at my dog sleeping instead.

In all the discussions of the latest crop of subpoenas from the House of Representatives to various trumpian characters, Giuliani, et al, there seems to be a fair degree of certainty that now, now that they are using the actual word, “impeach,” now the intransigent opponent will have to sit up and take notice, will have to respond because the courts and official and we’re serious and all. I doubt it.

When Wm. Barr came on the scene, following Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, I heard references to his support for the concept of a “unitary executive.” He had sent an unsolicited memo to Rod Rosenstein, then deputy attorney general and Robert Mueller’s boss. He maintained in that memo that

“Trump’s firing of Jim Comey as director of the FBI could not be obstruction of justice regardless of Trump’s motives, Barr argued, because the president’s power to remove executive branch officials is ‘illimitable.’”

 Consider that. Illimitable.

Perhaps it’s just that I have been drenched in the propaganda of democracy and American Patriotism all my life but that word rankles. Just the use of it in any context that includes any part of the US government makes my stomach clench.

It turns out that the theory of the “unitary executive” includes many illimitable powers assigned to the American President. Those who subscribe to that theory believe it was the intent of the founders. Of course, everyone in the US with any political idea, crackpot or otherwise, attributes it to the revered founders. Those who oppose this theory insist that it was in no way the founders’ intention and can cite writings, in the Federalist Papers and elsewhere, to back up their belief. The unitarians (can I call them that?) seem to have less substantial documentation.

Not only is Barr one of the major proponents of this theory, he’s been working on it, on bringing it into practice and acceptance since Reagan days. No wonder 45 likes him. He, too, believes the president is king.

This belief figured in both the Iran-Contra and the Valerie Plame cases. Subpoenas were resisted. That congress had no authority over the president or the executive department staff was asserted. So this isn’t new at all and it hasn’t been resolved. In Plame they managed to run out the clock until the Obama administration turned over the subpoenaed documents after the Bush people were gone. No consequences then nor in the eighties for resisting Congressional oversight.

You can read all about it here. There’s more information and greater understanding.


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