The President’s Secret Emergency Powers
Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.
The president caused a stir when he asserted he had total authority to order the country back to work, and the federal government has “absolute power” to override state decisions on quarantines.
While legal experts and even a few members of his own party quickly pushed back on these bold claims of government power, Elizabeth Goitein, and Andrew Boyle, scholars from the liberal Brennan Center for Justice, wrote Mr. Trump’s words may not be as crazy as they sound.
Since the 1950s, they say, White House lawyers have prepared so-called “presidential emergency action documents” that would give presidents exactly the sort of sweeping authority Mr. Trump says he has.
The problem is, these documents are also secret:
These documents consist of draft proclamations, executive orders and proposals for legislation that can be quickly deployed to assert broad presidential authority in a range of worst-case scenarios. They are one of the government’s best-kept secrets. No presidential emergency action document has ever been released or even leaked. And it appears that none has ever been invoked.
It’s estimated 50 to 60 such documents exist, and they have been routinely updated.
But how do we know any of this? By following a trail of executive branch budgetary requests over the years, analysts have concluded the documents are real. The bigger proof, though, comes from historical examples that have made it into the public realm.
The bottom line: the president may have tipped his hand about the contents of these documents when he said:
“We are going to write up papers on this. It’s not going to be necessary because the governors need us one way or the other. Because ultimately it comes with the federal government.”
The Brennan Center’s Goitein and Boyle said:
It is not far-fetched to think that we might see the deployment of these documents for the first time and that they will assert presidential powers beyond those granted by Congress or recognized by the courts as flowing from the Constitution.