Like 'Nobody Has Ever Seen Before': Precedent and Privilege in the Trump Era
15 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2020
Date Written: June 30, 2020
In this Essay, I examine President Trump’s uses of executive privilege, both explicit and implicit, to stymie the congressional investigations that led to his impeachment in late 2019. Like so much else in his presidency, Trump’s sweeping claims of exemption from oversight are both symptomatic of a long trend toward presidential imperialism, and especially brazen and dangerous manifestations of the same. In the Essay, I take both a wide and a long view of Trump’s impeachment intransigence. That is, I consider how his behavior reflects and thus far, has exacerbated judicial and political branch trends favoring presidential power. Looking to the future, I acknowledge that executive aggrandizement episodes tend to build on themselves, contributing to a ratchet effect that enhances presidential power. I argue, however, that this one-way trajectory is not inevitable. Indeed, some presidential abuses become anti-canonical and spark a backlash against future such actions. President Trump’s obstruction deserves to meet this fate.
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