James Madison was one of the three authors of the Federalist Papers and, later, the fourth president of the United States. In 1788, he wrote, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judicia[l] in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many … may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny” (Federalist No. 51). While, today, Americans still hold sacred the principles of checks and balances, separation of powers, and separate but equal branches of government, the Democratic Party appears intent upon abandoning those principles when it takes the reins of the 116th Congress in January 2019.
Democrats [are] bent upon creating a new administrative dictatorship.
Since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, each of the three branches of government has assumed for itself – or has been granted – powers beyond those originally laid out in the founding document. Article I, Section 8 lists the authority conferred upon the Congress. It is laid out in 18 points, with the Senate being granted the additional right of advice and consent with regard to presidential appointments and international treaties (Article II, Section 2).
The Constitution vs. The Congress
Nothing in the Constitution gives Congress the power of oversight of the executive branch; Congress granted itself that authority. Likewise, neither the executive nor judicial branches have the authority to oversee the function of each other or of the legislative branch. This is what the phrase “separate but equal” branches of government means. Once any of the three divisions decides it has the power to control the activities of either, or both, of the other two, Madison’s warning becomes a reality.
Yet, this is precisely what Democrats have planned for the new Congress. Not only are they preparing an extensive list of investigations against President Donald Trump, but they also intend to go after newly-appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Though it is clear that neither the impeachment of Trump nor Kavanaugh would lead to convictions in the Senate, Democrats will forge ahead. Their intent is to assume a new – and entirely unconstitutional – authority to dictate terms to the executive and judicial branches.
There is no constitutionally sound argument to be made that Congress has the right to investigate any action taken by a sitting president if that action falls within the constitutional authority of the chief executive. According to a report by Axios, Democrats plan to investigate, among other things, the president’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the dismissal of U.S. attorneys, travel and office expenses of cabinet secretaries, hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, and Trump’s dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The opposition party even plans to probe the president’s war of words with The Washington Post and its parent corporation, Amazon. The leader of the free world, apparently, should not even express opinions without congressional approval.
If the prospect of the House of Representatives arbitrarily granting itself authority over these matters was not extremely disturbing, it would be laughable. One thing that is laughable is that Democrats also plan to investigate the use of personal email accounts by White House staff. It certainly does seem inappropriate that any government official would use a personal email account for official business. However, in light of the Clinton scandal – during which Democrats defended the former Secretary of State even as she and her staff refused to answer questions, lied, destroyed evidence, and disposed of tens of thousands of subpoenaed messages – the double standard is particularly galling.
A New Administrative Dictatorship
Some 64 subpoena requests by Democrats have already been blocked by the House Oversight Committee. Collectively, these span almost everything the Trump administration has done since this president took office. A great many of them were for documents that are clearly covered by executive privilege.
In effect, Democrats are creating a new model for government in which a president has no authority to do anything without the examination and approval of the House of Representatives.
In the case of Justice Kavanaugh, it is evident the Democrats intend to investigate his alleged perjury, although it is not entirely clear how the justice may have perjured himself. There is no other legal or constitutional basis for his planned impeachment. Only one other Supreme Court Justice has ever been impeached, Justice Samuel Chase in 1805, and he was acquitted in the Senate. His alleged crimes centered around his well-known political partisanship. A staunch federalist, Chase fell foul of the Democratic-Republicans, forbearers of the Democratic Party. Chase’s defense team was ultimately successful in arguing that he had been targeted for his political beliefs.
Likewise, Justice Kavanaugh has been targeted by Democrats for his political beliefs and because he was a Trump appointee. That is no basis for impeachment, however, and so Democrats will proceed under the pretense that he perjured himself.
A disturbing precedent is being created – one in which a partisan House of Representatives proclaims itself the superior institution of government, willing and able to use committees as launching pads for investigations into anything and everything to which it objects. For the sake of preserving the concept of trias politica – the apportioning of government power between three equal branches – the executive must use all the tools and authority at its disposal, as well as appealing, if necessary, to the judicial branch, to contain the coming excesses of Democrats bent upon creating a new administrative dictatorship.