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Tag Archive: Congress

America’s AUMF Problem: Tomorrow’s Senate Hearing and a New Proposal from Eliot Engel

Events over the last several weeks show that not only is the AUMF issue not going away, but that Congress continues to inch closer to agreement. This Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on “Reviewing Congressional Authorizations for the Use of Military Force.” As readers well know, the executive branch continues to rely on the war authorization Congress passed a week after the 9/11 attacks.…   continue »

We Have Good Reasons to Be Concerned About the Impact of Section 702 on the Criminal Justice System


In a recent analysis for Just Security, I explored some concerns about how warrantless surveillance under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”) may be undermining the U.S. criminal justice system. While many of those concerns would apply to the government’s potential reliance on warrantless Section 702 data as part of any criminal probe, I expressed a worry that such data might conceivably be making its way into investigations of relatively low-level suspected offenses (for example, suspected drug-related violations).…   continue »

Fight It with FOIA: How Congress Can Respond to White House Attempts to Block Congressional Oversight


The Trump White House took another step last week to weaken the checks and balances at the center of our constitutional system.  According to Politico, President Donald Trump’s “White House is telling federal agencies to blow off Democratic lawmakers’ oversight requests.”  As Politico reported, “a White House lawyer told agencies not to cooperate with such requests from Democrats, according to Republican sources inside and outside the administration.”

Politico’s reporting was reinforced by the release of a memorandum from the Trump Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to the White House Counsel entitled “Authority of Individual Members of Congress to Conduct Oversight of the Executive Branch.”  That memorandum states that “Individual members of Congress, including ranking minority members, do not have the authority to conduct oversight in the absence of a specific delegation by a full house, committee, or subcommittee.”

This is a brazen statement and one for which the OLC memo lacks support.  …   continue »

Don’t Be So Quick to Call Those Disclosures “Legal”

Following multiple reports that President Trump disclosed highly classified information to Russian officials at a private meeting, various legal experts have asserted that Trump broke no laws. An impressively thorough blog post on Lawfare noted that “the very purpose of the classification system is to protect information the President, usually through his subordinates, thinks sensitive.…   continue »

Never Waste A Good Crisis, FBI Edition

President Trump’s decision to summarily dismiss now-former FBI Director James Comey has sparked grave concerns in many quarters.  The move has been described as a profoundly dangerous example of the President’s authoritarian instincts.  It has led to warnings of a potential constitutional crisis, speculation whether the president is guilty of obstruction of justice, and skepticism that the President’s proffered reasons for the termination actually underlie his decision.  continue »

President Trump: Don’t Replace Andrew McCabe

Yesterday, James’ Comey’s former deputy, now Acting Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, demonstrated that he, too, is willing to speak his mind (read: will not be bullied into quiet submission).

In sharp contrast to the claims of White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who claimed on Wednesday that rank-and-file FBI employees had lost confidence in their former Director, he told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Comey “enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does to this day.”

McCabe further rejected the assertion, also made by Sanders, that the Russian investigation was one of the “smallest things on [the FBI’s] plate,” calling it instead a “highly significant investigation.”

Given the risks that Trump fired Comey in an effort to tamp down the investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia – and embroiled even his new Deputy Attorney General in these efforts – such independence is a reassuring breach of fresh air.  …   continue »

Norms Watch: Tracking the Erosion of Democratic Traditions (May 5-12)

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On Tuesday, in what was arguably his “most significant action” as president, Trump fired FBI director James Comey. Since FBI directors almost always serve 10-year terms, the abrupt termination raised concerns that it was motivated by Trump’s desire to obstruct the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election.  continue »