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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

 

Push comes to shove

by Tom Sullivan


"Military" vehicle flying "Trump" flag caught on video Sunday in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by invisibleky.

When it comes to faith, it often seems people who talk about it the most understand it the least. The same is true of our vaunted American principles. We love our Constitution and Bill of Rights. We venerate the Founders and American principles: separation of powers, the rule of law, not of men, equal protection, etc. But for many, when push comes to shove, faith in them is a mile wide and an inch deep. Has push come to shove?

From Huffington Post:

President Donald Trump on Monday quietly replaced the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, following a chaotic weekend during which DHS customs officials struggled to interpret and comply with Trump’s controversial executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries.

In a statement released late Monday evening, the newly confirmed DHS secretary, John Kelly, announced that Thomas Homan had been named the new acting director of ICE. The statement did not mention Daniel Ragsdale, who was being replaced.
Ragsdale stays on as deputy director. As associate director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, Homan received the Presidential Rank Award for Distinguished Service.

Trump also fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates Monday night. The Obama appointee was "weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration," the White House said in a statement. Don't miss the wording:
The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States. This order was approved as to form and legality by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel.
You well remember the sound legal advice that came out of the last Republican Office of Legal Counsel. The George W. Bush White House waited until its second term to start firing Department of Justice officials for following the law rather than the president's wishes. Donald Trump, Man of Action, isn't waiting.

The International Business Times reports:
Meanwhile, Dana Boente, the new acting attorney general, overruled the advice of Yates that the president’s travel ban was not lawful and should not be defended.

"Based upon the Office of Legal Counsel’s analysis, which found the Executive Order both lawful on its face and properly drafted, I hereby rescind former Acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates January 30, 2017, guidance and direct the men and women of the Department of Justice to do our sworn duty and to defend the lawful orders of our President," Boente wrote in a statement.
What is in question is whether the Trump administration will even adhere to the barest of norms and legal principle. As reports come out that Trump's Customs and Border Protection officers are ignoring multiple court orders halting Trump's travel ban, Dahlia Lithwick writes:
The situation has forced observers to reckon with a question that has little or no precedent in American history: What happens when the federal government or its agents refuse to honor a court order handed down by a federal judge? By definition, it has to be different from what happens when, say, a state lawmaker flouts the word of a federal judge, since in the past, such cases have involved the president himself sending in the U.S. Marshals to enforce the law. But who will be on what side if things escalate, and the executive branch itself explicitly and continuously refuses to follow the rulings of the judiciary? At what point does the conflict turn into a full-blown constitutional crisis?
But most likely, “there will be several rounds of brinksmanship before this rises to the level of a constitutional crisis,” University of Chicago Law School professor William Baude told Lithwick. Expect a ramping up of pressure in attempt to gain compliance and avoid sending anyone to jail for contempt of court.
What happens if Trump and his people simply decline to back down, even after a judge gives them an opportunity to comply? According to Waldman, that’s when a judge could call the U.S. Marshals in to enforce the order. In the case of Dulles, that could mean pitting U.S. Marshals against armed agents at airports. “This,” Waldman wrote, “is what sets us up for a darker, dangerous turn.”
Lithwick's post reassures that Trump does not yet control all of the executive branch, and many career officials and Obama administration holdovers remain. Like Sally Yates. Obviously, Lithwick posted a mite too early.

Rule of law, not of men? Ask CBP officers and the guys in the trucks what they believe in. Then pay attention not to what they say, but to what they do.