On Monday, dozens of former Republican lawmakers and national security officials signed open letters urging Congress to protect the Constitution against Donald Trump’s efforts to subvert the separation of powers on the way to seizing money earmarked for other purposes and diverting it to the construction of his vanity project on the southern border.
As you’re hopefully aware, the House is all set to pass a resolution nullifying Trump’s border “emergency”, setting up a Senate vote and, potentially, a presidential veto.
On Friday, while speaking in the Oval Office opposite the Chinese trade delegation, Trump sounded confident that Republicans in the Senate won’t break ranks to support Democrats in their efforts to terminate his farcical declaration. He promised to veto the resolution if it does pass and suggested lawmakers wouldn’t be able to muster the two thirds majority needed to override him.
By Monday, the president appeared to realize that some GOP’ers are likely to defect.
“I hope our great Republican Senators don’t get led down the path of weak and ineffective Border Security”, he tweeted, before parroting his standard “without strong borders, we don’t have a country” line and imploring Republicans to “be strong and smart” and not “fall into the Democrats trap of Open Borders and Crime!”
There again is the actual President of the United States accusing Democrats of being pro-crime, a patently absurd contention on par with suggesting that anyone who doesn’t support a handgun ban is “pro-gun-murder” (just to kind of flip the script on things).
Well, you can count more than two dozen former GOP lawmakers, including Senators John Danforth, Chuck Hagel, Olympia J. Snowe and Richard Lugar among those who, to let Trump tell it, are “falling into the Democrat’s trap” and you can also put Madeleine Albright in there, because she signed the letter penned by 58 former senior national security officials.
Here’s an excerpt from the GOP letter:
It has always been a Republican fundamental principle that no matter how strong our policy preferences, no matter how deep our loyalties to presidents or party leaders, in order to remain a constitutional republic we must act within the borders of the Constitution. Our oath is to put the country and its Constitution above everything, including party politics or loyalty to a president.
The letter from the security officials notes that Trump’s characterization of the situation on the southern border is “rebutted not just by the public record, but by his agencies’ own official data, documents, and statements.”
“Under no plausible assessment of the evidence is there a national emergency today”, the officials continued.
Perhaps the most scathing rebuke of Trump came from House Republican Justin Amash, who tweeted this over the weekend:
The same congressional Republicans who joined me in blasting Pres. Obama’s executive overreach now cry out for a king to usurp legislative powers. If your faithfulness to the Constitution depends on which party controls the White House, then you are not faithful to it.
It would be impossible to put it any better than that.
Because there’s not much else we could possibly add that isn’t included in the letters themselves, we’ll just leave you with the full text of both.
25 Former GOP Lawmakers: Honor Your Oath and Protect the Constitution
An Open Letter to Republican Members of Congress
As Republican Members of Congress, each of us started with one central understanding of our party’s overarching commitment: to honor our pledge to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. After each election, when our constituents granted us the privilege to again represent them in Congress, we renewed that pledge. It has always been a Republican fundamental principle that no matter how strong our policy preferences, no matter how deep our loyalties to presidents or party leaders, in order to remain a constitutional republic we must act within the borders of the Constitution. Our oath is to put the country and its Constitution above everything, including party politics or loyalty to a president.
We who have signed this letter are no longer Members of Congress but that oath still burns within us. That is why we are coming together to urge those of you who are now charged with upholding the authority of the first branch of government to resist efforts to surrender those powers to a president.
We offer two arguments against allowing a president—any president, regardless of party—to circumvent congressional authority. One is the constitutional placing of all lawmaking power in the hands of the people’s representatives. Article 1 of the Constitution, which vests the legislative branch with specific powers, states in section 9: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” The power of the purse rests with Congress because it is comprised of 535 representatives of the taxpayer and is the most direct connection between those being governed and those governing. If you allow a president to ignore Congress, it will be not your authority but that of your constituents that is deprived of the protections of true representative government.
The second argument goes directly to the question each of you must face: how much are you willing to undermine both the Constitution and the Congress in order to advance a policy outcome that by all other legitimate means is not achievable? The current issue—a wall on our southern border—has gone through the process put in place by the Constitution. It has been proposed by the President, it has been debated by Congress, and the representatives of the people allocated funding at a level deemed appropriate by Congress. We understand that there are many Members of Congress who disagree with the final funding compromise reached by a bipartisan group of legislators. To you, we ask this question: what will you do when a president of another party uses the precedent you are establishing to impose policies to which you are unalterably opposed? There is no way around this difficulty: what powers are ceded to a president whose policies you support may also be used by presidents whose policies you abhor.
Like us, you have taken an oath of office. You were elected to Congress to carry out the constitutional duties and responsibilities of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate. You were sent to Congress to be the voice of the people. That is an awesome burden and it may require you to exercise restraint to protect the constitutional model—that which is the root of American exceptionalism—and to keep it from being sacrificed on the altar of expediency.
We who have served where you serve now call on you to honor your oath of office and to protect the Constitution and the responsibilities it vested in Congress. We ask that you pass a joint resolution terminating the emergency declared by the President on February 15, 2019.
United States House of Representatives (R-TX), 1983-1991
United States House of Representatives (R-NE), 1979-2004
United States House of Representatives (R-NY), 1983-2007
United States House of Representatives (R-WA), 1983-1993
William Clinger Jr.
United States House of Representatives (R-PA), 1979-1997
United States House of Representatives (R-MO), 1976-1993
United States Senate (R-MO), 1977-1995
United States House of Representatives (R-OK), 1977-1993
David F. Emery
United States House of Representatives (R- ME), 1975-1983
United States Senate (R-NE), 1997-2009
United States Senate (R-NH), 1979-1990
United States House of Representatives (R-CT), 1983-2007
United States House of Representatives (R-AZ), 1985-2007
United States House of Representatives (R-IA), 1977-2007
United States House of Representatives (R-NY), 1981-1983
United States Senate (R-IN), 1977-2013
United States House of Representatives (R-CA), 1967-1983
John R. McKernan, Jr.
United States House of Representatives (R-ME), 1983-1987
United States House of Representatives (R-WI), 1979-2015
United States House of Representatives (R-RI), 1981-1991
John J.H. Schwarz, MD
United States House of Representatives (R-MI), 2005-2007
United States House of Representatives (R-CT), 1987-2009
United States House of Representatives (R-VT), 1989-1991
United States Senate (R-ME), 1995-2013
United States House of Representatives (R-ME), 1979-1995
United States House of Representatives (R- TX), 1973-1977