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Trump’s national emergency powers are a Pandora’s box

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Donald Trump could open a Pandora’s box if he invokes special crisis powers. The U.S. president is considering bypassing Congress to build a border wall by declaring a national emergency. In theory, similar authority could enable him to shut down CNN, say, or block access to Facebook.

Trump used the language of war to make his case for a border wall on Tuesday night. He asked “how much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?” About 266,000 illegal immigrants were arrested in America in 2017 and 2018, but most were for traffic violations, drug offenses or breaking immigration laws.

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An American president has wide latitude in deciding what is an emergency, which then gives him a vast array of powers. The Brennan Center for Justice identified 136 areas where a U.S. leader could act outside the normal scope of authority in such a situation. Trump could divert government funds for a wall, rather than being stuck because Congress is refusing to provide the $5.7 billion he wants.

A crisis could be used to serve other parts of his agenda. Trump regularly accuses media outlets including CNN and some online platforms of bias against him and Republicans in general. A threat of war, state of peril or other emergency would allow the president to suspend or amend regulations for wire communications entities, or shut down or take control of such facilities.

A cyber war with China, foreign interference in U.S. elections, or even the airing of an interview with someone like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange could provide a pretext to target CNN or MSNBC, according to Timothy Edgar, an attorney and former national security official. Similar reasoning could be used to block online access to Facebook if the social network’s activities were deemed to fall under wire communications.

Such moves would face legal challenges on grounds including the First Amendment’s free-speech protections. Congress could also pass a resolution terminating any declared emergency, but would need the support of two-thirds of both chambers to overcome Trump’s veto. A more comprehensive approach would be for legislators to narrow the definition of an emergency so a president could only declare one in a true crisis. A commander-in-chief needs some leeway in extreme situations, but it’s the job of lawmakers to set limits.

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Ex-AG Matt Whitaker ‘pretty much acknowledges abuse of power’ in Fox News interview

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The former acting Attorney General of the United States argued that presidential abuse of power is not a crime during a Tuesday evening appearance on Fox News.

Abuse of power is not a crime,” Matt Whitaker told Fox News personality Laura Ingraham.

Tufts University Professor Daniel Drezner was fascinated by the admission.

"Interesting that Whitaker pretty much acknowledges abuse of power but doesn’t think it’s egregious," Drezner noted.

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2020 Election

‘Abuse of power is not a crime’: Former acting AG Matt Whitaker makes a brazen claim on Fox News

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Former acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker told a Fox News audience that it is not a crime for President Donald Trump to abuse the power of his office.

Whitaker made the comments while complaining about "global elitists" during an interview with Laura Ingraham.

"What evidence of a crime do you have?" Whitaker asked, despite Trump, acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and defense lawyer Rudy Giuliani all admitting Trump sought foreign election interference to help his struggling re-election campaign.

"Abuse of power is not a crime," the nation's former top law enforcement office argued.

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2020 Election

Joe Biden apologizes for ‘partisan lynching’ comments about Bill Clinton’s impeachment

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Former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday apologized for comments he made saying impeachment could be viewed as a "partisan lynching."

The comments from a 1998 interview were reported after Biden said it was "abhorrent" and "despicable" for President Donald Trump to refer to impeachment as a lynching.

"Even if the President should be impeached, history is going to question whether or not this was just a partisan lynching or whether or not it was something that in fact met the standard, the very high bar, that was set by the founders as to what constituted an impeachable offense," Biden said in 1998.

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