(Jan. 28) It is clear from listening to the case made in the Senate by President Trump’s lawyers that their defense of his conduct relies on a highly expansive assertion of executive power. Their theory of an uber-powerful president is constitutionally bogus and, worse, quite dangerous.

To be clear, I write this as a particularly avid disciple of James Madison’s distrust of highly centralized power wherever it occurs. “It will not be denied,” he wrote, “that power is of an encroaching nature and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it.”

The American presidency is a uniquely powerful sort of national executive, much more so than the prime minister in a parliamentary system. As the national government has grown so much more massive and pervasive than ever envisioned by the founders, it should be obvious that the dangers of concentrated power are particularly great when in the hands of an unfettered president of such a big government in such a big country.

It is for that reason, Madison explained repeatedly in the Federalist Papers, that rather than setting up a pure “separation” of powers, the Constitution instead partially separated and partially blended almost every power it detailed. That way, no single branch of government would have the sort of exclusive control on any one power that would allow it to abuse that power without pushback or repercussion.

In that light, it is instructive that even the single foremost founding advocate of a strong executive, Alexander Hamilton, wrote that Americans should beware of entrusting too much power to presidents, even in foreign affairs.

He wrote: “An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents.”…

[The rest of this column, explaining why Republicans should fear, post-Trump, the monstrous presidency they have created, is here.]



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