BREAKING NEWS Eyota teen accused of murdering his little brother Full Story
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Midterm fury fuels Trump's assault on constitutional norms

President Donald T...

Posted: Nov 13, 2018 10:31 AM
Updated: Nov 13, 2018 10:31 AM

President Donald Trump is intensifying his challenge to constitutional constraints and governing norms that are already facing their gravest test since Watergate in the 1970s.

Trump has reacted to the coming Democratic majority in the House by upping the assault on the Washington system he was elected to upend, but in a way that could be taking the nation into perilous political territory.

Bill Clinton

Constitutional law

Continents and regions

Corruption

Donald Trump

Eastern Europe

Election fraud

Election results

Elections and campaigns

Europe

Florida

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government organizations - US

Immigration

Immigration, citizenship and displacement

International relations and national security

Investigations

Law and legal system

Matt Whitaker

North America

Political candidates

Political corruption

Political Figures - US

Political organizations

Politics

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

Society

Southeastern United States

The Americas

United States

US Congress

US Democratic Party

US federal government

US political parties

US Republican Party

US Senate

White House

In the days since the fracturing of the Republican majority on power in Washington, Trump has challenged political order across a broad front.

The President has installed Matthew Whitaker, an acolyte who shares his skepticism of the Mueller probe as acting attorney general. In addition, he has stoked conspiracy theories about stolen elections in the wake of Florida's latest vote counting controversy and has threatened to use the mechanisms of government to investigate Democrats if they investigate him.

And he has stepped up his assault on the press, including by confiscating the White House pass of CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta, who asked multiple, challenging questions of Trump during a White House news conference.

All of this came days after Trump used his power as commander-in-chief to dispatch troops to the border to meet what he said was an imminent criminal invasion from a migrant caravan that is yet to materialize.

The President's moves, with the prospect of more to come, have precipitated a surreal moment in politics, with Washington veterans debating whether a constitutional crisis is looming — or whether it is already here.

Does the acting AG threaten the rule of law?

The current epicenter of the debate concerns Whitaker, the former chief of staff to fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions who took his boss's job.

"He should never have been appointed and ... it does violence to the Constitution and the vision of our founders to appoint such a person in such a manner to be the chief legal officer in our country," the likely next House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

Growing questions over Whitaker's position will hike pressure on the President to swiftly nominate a permanent attorney general. But that nominee will face an inquisition from the Republican-led Senate over their positions on the Russia probe.

Whitaker's critics fear he will refuse to sign off on subpoenas Mueller might request, narrow the mandate of his investigation or suppress the special counsel's final report.

His appointment has raised fears that the President intends to use him to derail the Russia investigation. That is a realistic possibility since Trump already admitted in an NBC interview last year that he fired FBI Director James Comey because of the investigation -- a move that critics say in itself amounts to an abuse of power and obstruction of justice.

Whitaker appears unlikely to heed calls to recuse himself from the probe given a decision by Sessions to do so sparked Trump's fury and poisoned his tenure.

It may fall to the new Democratic House majority, therefore, to act as a check on any attempts by Trump to use Whitaker to interfere with Mueller, despite the President's challenge to legal norms represented by his appointment.

Florida, Florida, Florida

The President has frequently made claims of massive voter fraud in the United States, despite the fact that all available evidence suggests that it is not a significant problem.

So it is no surprise that he has leapt into action to proclaim that Florida's latest vote controversy is a flagrant example of Democratic larceny at the polls.

"The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged," Trump tweeted Monday morning after having spent the weekend in Paris.

An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!

No one is disputing the Sunshine's State's unfortunate tendency to trigger election controversy. And answers are overdue about the stewardship of elections in Broward and Palm Beach counties for instance.

Lawyers for Democratic and Republican candidates are now launching dueling campaigns. Each side has every right to make their case after the state's Republican secretary of state ordered recounts to begin given thin margins.

"Every vote should be counted, but, by gosh, not let fraudulent or anti-Constitutional behavior prevail," Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who ran the Republican Senate midterm campaign, said on CNN's "State of the Union."

But Trump seems to be reacting not to evidence of fraud, but to vote counts that are narrowing the gap between Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum and the presumed Republican victors.

Thus the Florida controversy marks the latest occasion when he is prioritizing his personal interests over a President's duty to protect the nation's democracy.

But by intervening personally in the race, the President is casting doubt on the integrity of the election and potentially risking long-term damage to America's political system itself, which relies on public consent.

His furious intervention contrasts with the reaction of President Bill Clinton during an even higher-stakes confrontation in Florida, the bitterly contested recount in the 2000 presidential election, eventually handed to George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore by the Supreme Court.

Clinton took steps to avoid politicizing the process, reasoning that America's system depended on him staying out of it.

"I don't think I should be involved in that," Clinton said soon after the disputed election.

Trump's intervention 18 years later is one reason why his critics fear he is oblivious or disdainful of traditional norms governing presidential behavior.

Lashing out at scrutiny

The Democratic capture of the House guarantees an uncomfortable period of investigation and oversight for the White House that the Republican majority deemed unnecessary during his first two years in office.

"They can play that game, but we can play it better, because we have a thing called the United States Senate," Trump said during a Wednesday news conference.

In the latest worrying sign for the President, top Democrat Rep. Jerrold Nadler told Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" that Democrats would examine hush payments to women who allege past affairs with Trump that may infringe campaign finance laws.

"That might very well be an impeachable offense," Nadler said.

Trump has denied the alleged affairs.

The President already reacted with fury to the notion of a new era of scrutiny from Democrats, promising a "warlike" posture if it took place, and hinted he could use the mechanisms of government to investigate them during a news conference last week.

The President also acted in a way many observers fear raises First Amendment questions by taking the unprecedented step of confiscating Acosta's permanent White House press pass after he questioned the President on the migrant caravan.

How deep is the crisis?

Events of the last few days point clearly to an escalating challenge by the White House to political conventions and guardrails, one that could further sharpen if Trump's reshuffle of top officials rids him of remaining restraining influences.

It is more difficult to assess whether the President's actions have already tipped the nation into a constitutional crisis or whether the system of checks and balances has kept him on the right side of that line.

After all, two years after he was elected, voters did decide to introduce new accountability in Washington with a Democratic House after Republicans gave no sign they were willing to rein in the President's excesses.

The courts have tempered some of Trump's most radical ideas, watering down a Muslim travel ban he authored early in his presidency. Trump's new use of executive power to limit asylum claims, in an apparent contravention of international law, will soon get its own day in court.

But political systems need to be nurtured constantly if they are to remain healthy. And the President's rhetoric on the Florida controversy especially seems to edge close to the danger zone.

One veteran observer, Leon Panetta, a former White House chief of staff for Clinton and defense secretary under President Barack Obama, believes the nation's institutions are standing firm.

"I think ultimately the institutions that our forefathers put in place are strong enough to be able to survive any administration," Panetta said Thursday on "The Situation Room."

But the fact that the question is even relevant is testimony to the darkening mood in Washington.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 25208

Reported Deaths: 1060
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin8514616
Ramsey3075128
Stearns203013
Nobles15445
Anoka142970
Dakota134957
Washington64532
Olmsted63410
Kandiyohi4971
Rice4622
Scott4362
Clay42728
Mower3452
Wright3202
Todd3190
Sherburne2462
Carver2182
Benton1783
Steele1600
Blue Earth1420
Martin1325
Freeborn1250
St. Louis11814
Pine890
Unassigned8810
Nicollet8810
Winona8015
Cottonwood760
Watonwan750
Carlton750
Crow Wing712
Otter Tail700
Goodhue683
Chisago621
Polk612
Lyon570
Itasca5510
Dodge530
Chippewa511
Morrison470
Meeker450
Douglas440
Le Sueur441
Becker400
Murray390
Jackson390
McLeod370
Isanti350
Waseca260
Rock220
Swift190
Mille Lacs191
Pennington190
Faribault190
Wabasha180
Fillmore171
Sibley160
Brown162
Beltrami150
Cass142
Norman130
Marshall120
Pipestone120
Kanabec111
Wilkin113
Wadena100
Koochiching90
Pope90
Aitkin80
Mahnomen61
Yellow Medicine60
Big Stone60
Lincoln50
Redwood50
Renville50
Red Lake40
Grant40
Lac qui Parle30
Clearwater30
Traverse30
Houston20
Hubbard20
Roseau20
Lake10
Kittson10
Stevens10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 19669

Reported Deaths: 555
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4236133
Woodbury276136
Black Hawk174745
Linn95379
Dallas91623
Marshall89616
Buena Vista8100
Johnson6149
Wapello59712
Muscatine55741
Crawford5282
Tama40327
Scott36110
Dubuque34619
Louisa34511
Sioux2830
Pottawattamie2698
Jasper26017
Washington1898
Wright1780
Warren1350
Plymouth1332
Allamakee1204
Story1161
Mahaska9510
Poweshiek908
Henry711
Bremer696
Des Moines651
Boone650
Clinton641
Taylor560
Clarke560
Guthrie513
Cedar481
Benton431
Hamilton430
Webster421
Monroe385
Shelby370
Jones360
Clayton343
Osceola340
Buchanan330
Iowa330
Marion320
Cherokee310
Jefferson300
Cerro Gordo291
Madison292
Lee270
Fayette270
Monona250
Winneshiek240
Lyon240
Davis230
Harrison230
Dickinson210
Sac200
Grundy200
Mills190
Floyd191
Humboldt181
Clay170
Delaware171
Hardin170
Butler171
Lucas170
Emmet160
Hancock160
Appanoose143
Ida140
Page140
Franklin140
Keokuk140
Pocahontas130
Greene130
Howard120
Cass120
Audubon121
Jackson120
Carroll110
Winnebago110
Chickasaw100
Kossuth100
Adair90
Van Buren90
Union90
Montgomery80
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Fremont40
Ringgold40
Mitchell40
Worth30
Calhoun20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Unassigned10
Rochester
Clear
92° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 95°
Mason City
Clear
94° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 95°
Albert Lea
Clear
95° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 97°
Austin
Clear
95° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 100°
Charles City
Clear
93° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 96°
Powerful storms and summer-like conditions are coming our way
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Sara's Midday Forecast - Tuesday

Image

Pool sales on the rise while pools remain closed

Image

Sara's Daybreak Forecast - Tuesday

Image

Rochester man bringing donations to the Twin Cities.

${item.thumbnail.title}

StormTeam 3: Today's Severe Weather Update

Image

Yoga studio closes space, tries new idea

Image

Forager Brewery welcomes new business

Image

Salons reopen at 25% capacity

Image

DMC's impact on Rochester's economic recovery

Image

Forager Brewery - best patio in Rochester

Community Events