Essay №3: The Removal Power
The War on the Rule of Law
A president has three general areas where they can derive power. As most are aware, the president has constitutional power and statutory power vested to them through the Constitution. As the leader of their party, they also have political power. However, a president’s rhetorical power in the modern era has come to us in the form of a tweet. President Trump’s fireside chats have come to us in the form of 140 characters.
The danger deposited through a 140 characters is not length but rather how he uses it. Whether he is aware of his actions or not, is not the topic of debate in this essay. The devaluing of our judiciary through casting rhetorical skepticism is the most dangerous dimension of power President Trump has used thus far in order to build a case to utilize his removal power. Understanding that the role of the president, exists in a favored position to charm and build their status and authority, we are conditioned to view the office as an executive authority of the law.
The relationship between the Executive, the Judiciary and the rule of law is one of the utmost important relationships that exist in our grand experiment of democracy. Understanding the Judicial system is to understand the nature in which the framers wished to remove politics from the rule of law. The complexity written into both the judicial branch and the constitution was done in order to unnerve the threat of political influence poisoning the rule of law. The intention to place supremacy in the Constitution, its’ interpreters and the rule of law before the dangers of politics. The idea that the principle of law should govern a nation, rather than arbitrary decisions of individual factions, offices or positions of trust.
Donald Trump is attempting to create a dichotomy in which the rule of law is the bulwark between the security of the nation and anarchy. Exercising his power of removal, President Trump removed acting Attorney General Sally Yates from her position after she denied to uphold the administrations travel ban. In response to the ban, defying the will of the White House, she wrote:
I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.
When faced with the looming question to remove Sally Yates from office, which ultimately he choose to do, he was faced with a test of responsibility. The question before us lies within the question of how far the executive can extend its’ power to thwart any given agency or branch of government via this constitutionally vested power. James Madison in a speech delivered to Congress on the Removal Power stated in reference to an unworthy removal that:
What will be the motives which the president can feel for such abuse of his power, and the restraints that operate to prevent it? In the first place, he will be im-peachable by this house, before the senate, for such an act of mal-administration; for I contend that the wanton removal of meritorious officers would subject him to impeachment and removal from his own high trust. But what can be his motives for displacing a worthy man? It must be that he may fill the place with an unworthy creature of his own. Can he accomplish this end? No; he can place no man in the vacancy whom the senate shall not approve; and if he could fill the vacancy with the man he might chuse, I am sure he would have little inducement to make an improper removal.
It is my understanding that the removal of an officer for politically ambitious reasons under the president’s delegation of administrative authority and the removal power, could be taken as an impeachable offense if the action is done in disdain to the rule of law. Due to the amounting facts that the removal of acting Attorney General Sally Yates was in response to her view of the travel ban issued by the White House, partnered with President Trump’s criticism of the courts in the name of national security, I believe that the president has abused his power of removal and administrative authority. Doing the exact thing that James Madison outlined in his speech to Congress.
Now this is not to say that anytime a president removes an officer from a position that it is means to file articles of impeachment. I am suggesting that a test of responsibility be given to each removal to ensure that a president is not removing officers to thwart the rule of law, thwart any other branch, thwart our system of checks and balances and pursue an overly ambitious agenda.