Many of us were expecting President Donald Trump to provoke a constitutional crisis, but who thought it would happen so soon? Not even 10 days from his inauguration.
As Huffington Post writer Nick Baumann put it: “Obedience to specific court orders is what keeps us from being a banana republic or fascist dictatorship. That’s a really big deal.”
Baumann continued: "Late Friday, Trump issued an executive order forbidding millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands of visitors and 500,000 legal immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States. Over the following 48 hours, massive protests erupted in cities and airports nationwide. . . . [A}n anonymous White House official proclaimed the whole episode a 'massive success story.'"
Not so fast. The ACLU and others filed suits in federal courts, and judges in Boston, Brooklyn, Seattle, and Virginia each put some form of stay or delay on the orders. But the Trump administration is not fully complying; rather they are claiming the Brooklyn judge's ruling does not undercut the executive order. And Customs and Border Patrol officials have refused to obey the federal court rulings in at least some cases.
As I understand what Team Trump is saying: the executive order invalidates existing visas of those covered by the order. Thus, the judicial rulings -- that those arriving with valid visas must be admitted -- is meaningless. Because there are now no valid visas for people from these countries.
Democrats in congress are fighting the administration and have made a request to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General to investigate whether CBP officers disobeyed court orders and, if so, who ordered them to do it.
Some law professors have agreed that this has the makings of a constitutional crisis. And that is probably exactly what Bannon and Trump want. Another law professor said that it is not just a constitutional crisis; if the defiance continues, it is indication of a lack of respect for the rule of law.
It seems like the sooner we get this settled, the better. If this president is not going to follow the rule of law, then he must be impeached forthwith.
UPDATE: Monday evening: Acting Attorney General Sally Yates is a career prosecutor at the Justice Department, who was appointed Deputy AG two years ago, and who Obama put next in the line of succession when AG Loretta Lynch left. Trump then asked her to stay in that position until his AG Jeff Sessions is confirmed. On Monday Yates made a stunning announcement: the Justice Department will not defend President Trump's executive order blocking refugees and certain foreign nationals.
Saying that she is responsible to see that the Justice Department remains consistent with it's solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.
Before this, the Office of Legal Counsel had given an opinion that the executive order was legal. But Yates' letter clarified that something can be legal in a technical sense but not be wise or just. There is a growing numbers of lawsuits, and a number of judges have already put delays on deportations.
President Trump could fire AG Yates or he could ask the Senate to expedite confirmation of Sessions, which would automatically end Yates' from the role of Acting Attorney General. As of Monday evening, there has been no response from the White House.
UPDATE #2: By 9:00 pm, President Trump had fired Acting AG Sally Yates, saying she had "betrayed" the Justice Dept. by refusing to defend his order. He has already appointed a replacement, Dana Boente, an Obama appointee but who has apparently said that he will "defend the laws."
But here is the greater issue. This raises serious questions about how independent a Justice Department will be under President Trump, and it puts the confirmation of Jeff Sessions in a new light. He has said he will be independent; but he was a very close member of the Trump campaign team. The Senate should not rush to confirm him tomorrow but rather bring him back in for further questioning about this issue.