Trump’s Disregard for the Rule of Law Is at Least As Bad As Biden’s
Sometime this month or next, the Supreme Court is expected to tell President Joe Biden that he can’t forgive $400 billion in student loan debt without congressional authorization. That plan is one of several ways in which Biden has embraced an expansive view of executive power that elevates his own preferences above the law.
Unfortunately, that is a bipartisan tendency, as Donald Trump, the leading contender to oppose Biden in the 2024 presidential election, recently reminded us. During his town hall on CNN last week, the former president showed a disregard for the rule of law and separation of powers at least as troubling as Biden’s.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked Trump why he retained thousands of presidential records, including hundreds that were marked as classified, when he left office in January 2021. “I have the absolute right to do whatever I want with them,” he claimed.
As Collins pointed out, that is simply not true. Under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, “the United States shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of Presidential records.”
As Trump himself noted, Congress enacted that law because Richard Nixon “had a lot of problems.” Specifically, Nixon had threatened to destroy presidential documents that Congress thought should be protected to promote transparency and preserve the historical record.
Yet here was Trump, insisting that he was not bound by that judgment or by a law that makes it a felony to “conceal” or “remove” government documents. The “absolute right” that Trump asserts evidently also nullifies a law that makes it a felony to improperly retain “information relating to the national defense” that “could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.”
The personal prerogative that Trump perceives may also explain why he failed to fully comply with a federal subpoena seeking all documents at Mar-a-Lago that bore classification markings. Collins repeatedly asked him about his apparent defiance of that subpoena, which was the main justification for the FBI’s August 8 search of Mar-a-Lago and remains a central issue in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s obstruction investigation. Trump repeatedly dodged the question.
Trump’s disregard for legal constraints on presidential power was also apparent in his response to an audience question about his unilateral ban on bump stocks, a gun accessory that facilitat
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