Dissecting Trump’s Efforts to Place Himself Above the Law

“Nobody is above the law,” Donald Trump declared during the 2016 campaign. But as special counsel Robert Mueller zeroes in on him, the president is carving out an exemption for himself. Trump and his attorneys are claiming absolute power for the president.

Trump’s attorney and mouthpiece Rudy Giuliani told HuffPost that Trump could not be indicted even if he “shot” former FBI director James Comey in the Oval Office.

A confidential January 29, 2018, memo written by Trump lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow contends that Trump essentially is above the law. As the French King Louis XIV said, “L’etat c’est moi” (I am the state). All political power resides in the king. Trump’s attorneys are arguing that the president is immunized against legal consequences for his actions.

“Unitary Executive” Theory of Presidential Power

Another Trump attorney, Marc Kasowitz, also wrote a confidential memo to Mueller, on June 23, 2017. It advocates the “unitary executive” doctrine, a radical rightwing theory of extensive presidential powers. “As a constitutional matter,” Kasowitz wrote, “the President also possesses the indisputable authority to direct that any executive branch investigation be open or closed because the Constitution provides for a unitary executive with all executive power resting with the President.”

Trump is not the first president to make sweeping claims of executive power.

In 2000, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito told the conservative Federalist Society that the Constitution “makes the president the head of the executive branch, but it does more than that. The president has not just some executive powers, but the executive power — the whole thing.”

Shortly after 9/11, legal mercenary John Yoo saw to it that George W. Bush included “unitary executive” in several of his signing statements, purporting to limit the parameters of statutes Congress had enacted. Yoo also made the astounding claim that a president could legally…

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