Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Miles from the Mainstream
D. R. ZUKERMAN, proprietor

Some LPR Reflections

May 19, 2019 --

On Presidential Succession

Perhaps Democrats would prefer that we switched to a parliamentary system, like the system we broke away from in 1776. That way, when the House of Representatives gets a Democrat majority, the prime minister's term is up and a Democrat would succeed a Republican. And so, there would be no speculation, with House Democrats in the majority, whether Mr. Trump would stay in office. He would have been gone since last election day.

In any event, history suggests that Democrats do not have to worry about the re-election of President Trump. Presidential elections have given us three successive two-term presidents twice. From 1801 to 1825, Thomas Jefferson served from March 4, 1801 to March 4, 1809; James Madison served from March 4, 1809 to March 4, 1817, and James Monroe served from March 4, 1817 to March 4, 1825. Thereafter, John Quincy Adams served one term, from March 4, 1825 to March 4, 1829. (The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1933 changed Inauguration Day to January 20.) The next time three successive presidents served two terms was from 1993 to 2017: Bill Clinton, from January 20, 1993 to January 20, 2001; George W. Bush, from January 20, 2001 to January 20, 2009; and Barack Obama, from January 20, 2009 to January 20, 2017. Thus far, it has been unprecedented for the U.S. to have four successive two-term presidents. Will Donald J. Trump go the way of John Quincy Adams, or will he win re-election to mark the first time in U.S. history that the voters chose four two-term presidents in a row? History suggests that the odds do not favor Mr. Trump. But, then., he has defied the odds all his life.

On the Twenty-fifth Amendment

The Twenty-fifth Amendment was adopted in 1967. During the past two and a half years, it has drawn attention for Section 4, which states that the president can be replaced by the Vice President as Acting President should the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet "or such other body as Congress may by law provide" transmit to the House Speaker and the Senate president pro tempore "their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office...." LPR calls attention to Section 2 of this Amendment: "Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

 

From time to time, anti-Trumpists cite Watergate as precedent for the impeachment of President Trump. (See for example, Elizabeth Drew, in The New York Times, April 26, 2019, "The Danger in Not Impeaching.") Would President Richard M.Nixon's removal from office have been considered if Vice President Spiro T. Agnew had not resigned October 10, 1973? In retrospect, it could be argued that President Nixon had his fate sealed when Mr. Agnew resigned in a bribery scandal and was succeeded, pursuant to the Twenty-fifth Amendment, by Rep. Gerald R. Ford, who became president when Mr. Nixon resigned. Thus far, even Democrats hoping against hope that President Trump can yet be removed from office are not calling, first, for the resignation of Vice President Mike Pence.

On the Subpoenas to the Trump Administration and to Trump interests inter alia

"It will not be denied, that power is of an encroaching nature, and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it." Federalist Paper No. 48

Federalist Paper No. 48, attributed to James Madison, is concerned with protecting each of the three departments of the federal government - legislative, executive and judiciary - from "an overruling influence over the others in the administration of their respective powers." Madison indicated that "in a representative republic" the people should be most concerned about "the enterprising ambition" of the legislature. LPR suggests that the blizzard of subpoenas sent by the Democrat chairman of the committees of the House of Representatives amount to the use of power for encroaching purpose. The apparent aim seems to be to bait and harass the president, in hopes that he will misstep for impeachment purpose ("self-impeachment," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it) or be so weakened as to fail in his bid for re-election.

Thus far, LPR understands that the subpoenas issuing forth from House committees to the Trump administration, and associated parties, lack the support of Republican House members. And so these subpoenas, seeking information stemming from Mr. Trump's activities as a private citizen as well as from issues arising during his presidency -- plus, of course, the subpoena to Attorney General William Barr for an unredacted copy of The Mueller Report -- represent the allegations of just one political party and, by definition, are partisan. Arguably, the partisan tone might impress a judge to decide that she is dealing not necessarily with "a constitutional crisis," but with a matter that, belonging in "the political thicket," is not justiciable, but is for the contending departments to work things out among themselves, taking care, however, not to encroach on the powers given to each department the Founding Fathers.