WEATHER AUTHORITY : Heat Advisory - Excessive Heat Warning View Alerts

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.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 343505

Reported Deaths: 7543
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23932444
DeSoto23229283
Harrison20527329
Rankin15411291
Jackson15232252
Madison10959227
Lee10719179
Jones9047169
Forrest8723159
Lauderdale7884244
Lowndes7054151
Lamar702989
Lafayette6548124
Washington5595139
Pearl River5196152
Bolivar4954134
Oktibbeha494398
Panola4771112
Warren4728128
Marshall4701106
Pontotoc447773
Union433279
Monroe4330137
Neshoba4281181
Hancock428088
Lincoln4176116
Pike3667113
Leflore3627125
Tate353388
Alcorn350974
Sunflower347694
Scott341176
Adams340988
Yazoo339376
Copiah324968
Simpson322891
Itawamba314680
Coahoma314085
Tippah306568
Prentiss298863
Covington293484
Leake285475
Marion284181
Wayne277543
George272251
Grenada269488
Newton262364
Tishomingo239770
Winston236784
Jasper230648
Stone229637
Attala226373
Chickasaw219060
Holmes200174
Clay197654
Clarke186880
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181332
Smith179235
Yalobusha171540
Walthall145748
Lawrence142826
Greene140134
Amite137543
Noxubee135235
Perry133538
Montgomery133044
Carroll126431
Webster121232
Jefferson Davis116734
Tunica114227
Benton106725
Claiborne105331
Kemper102429
Humphreys100133
Franklin87923
Quitman84719
Choctaw82619
Wilkinson78032
Jefferson71328
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 577463

Reported Deaths: 11510
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson841981589
Mobile47171860
Madison37047533
Tuscaloosa26915465
Shelby26873256
Montgomery25918625
Baldwin24499328
Lee16949181
Calhoun15252332
Morgan15017290
Etowah14778370
Marshall12933235
Houston11774292
Elmore10761217
St. Clair10617252
Limestone10574158
Cullman10363205
Lauderdale10083254
DeKalb9382191
Talladega8836188
Walker7681287
Autauga7479114
Jackson7317117
Blount7266139
Colbert6635142
Coffee6163132
Dale5453117
Russell470642
Chilton4682117
Covington4649125
Franklin450081
Tallapoosa4440156
Escambia427882
Chambers3898125
Dallas3717163
Clarke367763
Marion3427106
Pike327879
Lawrence3225101
Winston294973
Bibb284565
Geneva276383
Marengo259967
Barbour246261
Pickens240062
Butler238272
Hale232778
Fayette225264
Henry209245
Monroe197241
Randolph196744
Cherokee196348
Washington180139
Macon168752
Crenshaw165558
Clay163759
Cleburne160245
Lamar149938
Lowndes144854
Wilcox130531
Bullock126142
Conecuh119630
Coosa116929
Perry109928
Sumter109032
Greene98736
Choctaw64325
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
96° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 78°
Feels Like: 108°
Columbus
Clear
94° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 78°
Feels Like: 108°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
93° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 101°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
93° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 76°
Feels Like: 105°
Very hot and very humid conditions linger in our area for our Saturday. However, the heat and humidity start to dwindle a bit as we go into our Sunday and beyond. As a matter of fact below normal high temperatures for this time of year.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather