Carole Owens: Legislative branch gives way

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STOCKBRIDGE — What is wrong with what Donald Trump is doing? Are we squabbling about style or is it substantive?

Debating the decisions of any of the three branches of government is healthy. Assaulting the three branches can change and weaken our Republic. Therefore, the latter is substantively wrong.

As the judicial branch overturns executive decisions, the president assaults the branch, its independence and objectivity. The Constitution gives the judicial branch the right and responsibility to reconsider executive decisions and laws. "Judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and equity and treaties made."

As investigation into the president intensifies so do his assaults on his own executive branch and people he appointed. If no one is above the law, then investigation is proper. The president, regardless of how stung he may be by accusations, cannot relinquish his responsibility to uphold the Constitution and defend the government it established.

The legislative branch appears to be relinquishing its Constitutional obligation. To site a lesser reported example, the Posse Comitatus Act was passed in 1878 to prevent federal troops from policing the south after the Civil War. The act limits the deployment of federal troops on U.S. soil and forbids using federal troops to enforce domestic laws unless by act of Congress. In remaining silent while the president sent troops to the border, the legislature relinquished power.

Apparently, bowing to executive power rather than checking it is a function of agreement by the Republican-led legislature with presidential policies. An open letter from 44 former senators from both parties warned that we are "entering a dangerous period." There are challenges to "the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security."

Published in The Washington Post, the letter continued " our democracy and our national security interests are at stake [you the Senate] are the guardians of democracy with allegiance to the Constitution not any party or person."

Republicans do not appear to be democrats: they have supported a gradual movement from democracy to oligarchy, supporting a concentration of wealth; abdicating their governmental power over the distribution of wealth by relying upon corporate largess or "trickle down," and supporting a stronger executive (if a Republican) and a weaker executive (if a Democrat) maintaining first alliance to party.

FAILURES OF CONGRESS

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That brings us to the executive branch. Says the Constitituion: "The executive power shall be vested in the President of the United States." He shall be Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces and has the power to grant pardons. The president has the right to suggest legislation, the power to sign a bill into law, and the power to veto it. However, "All legislative powers granted herein shall be vested in the Congress of the United States" and Congress can override a presidential veto.

Powers and checks on power are carefully intertwined: "The president shall have power, by and with advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided 2/3 of the Senate agree, appoint ambassadors, pubic ministers, consuls, and judges to the Supreme Court."

Some have expressed concern that withdrawal from treaties has weakened our standing among nations. Those were not at the sole discretion of the president, however, if Congress will not exercise its powers, then the balance tilts.

A president can be removed from office by Congress "on impeachment for and conviction of treason bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors."

Impeachment is the bringing of a charge. Just as in criminal matters, based upon evidence gathered by police, the district attorney brings the charge. A court trial follows and determines guilt or innocence. According to Article 1 section 2: only the House of Representatives can bring the charge (impeach) and "the Senate shall have the sole power to try the impeachments."

The vice president sits as president of the Senate except when a president is tried. Then the chief justice presides. If two-thirds of the Senate finds a party guilty, it "shall not extend further than removal from office and disqualification from holding any office of honor or trust." After removal, the person can be tried in civil or criminal court.

What is an emolument? A fee, salary or other financial benefit. What is the "emolument clause"? Article 1 section 9: "No person holding any office or trust shall, without consent of Congress, accept any present or emolument, office or title of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreigner." Remember, our founding fathers were writing a document to establish an enlightened government and also to protect it from tyranny and foreign interference.

Collusion is a secret agreement between two or more people to cheat or deceive others. However, collusion is not what special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating. The investigation is into Russian interference with special attention to the 2016 election, and a determination if any American co-conspired. So far 13 Russians have been indicted for "criminal interference in a United States election." If any Americans helped the Russins, the charge is "conspiracy to defraud the United States."

A plot to benefit oneself by injuring others: is that substantively wrong? The injured parties are us — American citizens and voters. Is Trump in office by fraud? If it is proven, then what? Will whoever is guilty get away with it? Yes, unless we, the citizens of the United States of America, the ones cheated, care.

This is the last of a three-part series by Carole Owens about our government under siege from within.


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