The various plans and talking points that witnesses have revealed also highlight what a president has the power to do.
Government and legal experts say the bigger question is: Can further limits be placed on the president’s powers to ensure there is no repeat of 2020 in future administrations. future?
What laws form the basis for the powers of the president in question?
There are two main statutes: the Resurrection Act, first enacted in 1792, and the National Emergencies Act of 1976.
The Resurrection Act is a longstanding presidential power that authorizes the president to use military force to prevent a riot or domestic violence. The act authorizes the use of military force, which is normally prohibited by the Posse Comit-atus Act from engaging in civil law enforcement actions.
Elizabeth Goitein, senior director of the freedom and national security program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the uprising “in my view” could be the catalyst for the president to start taking action and mobilize the military to escort congressional legislators out of proceedings for their safety. “That doesn’t mean Donald Trump will be president, but it does create a key to the job,” she said.
According to the NEA, dozens of statutory agencies are available to any president when national emergencies are declared. These include everything from extreme weather responses to civil disturbances. Conference can vote to end the proclamation, but if the president vetoes it, a two-thirds supermajority is needed to override the veto.
“The statute itself doesn’t specify what the emergency is. That’s up to the president,” said Chris Edelson, an assistant professor of government at American University. “That means an unscrupulous president can use it” for malicious purposes. It is up to Congress, he said, to contain the president.
What issues were raised in the final hearing?
During the most recent hearing, former White House adviser Pat Cipillone discussed a fraught meeting in which Trump’s outside legal team presented a draft executive order to seize voting machines. of the states. In his testimony, Cipollone said that the plan was a terrible idea. It has been floated before.
“You can’t pre-seize the voting machines. If there’s a reason to do so, you need a court order,” Edelson said.
At the same meeting, a series of theories were put forward, including the invocation of martial law. It’s an idea Trump adviser Michael Flynn has floated before, along with the seizure of voting machines.
What about martial law?
Under the Resurrection Act, the president can call on the military under certain circumstances, but they are intended to aid civilian law enforcement. An example is the use of the military during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Under martial law, the military assumed the function of civilian government.
Goitein said martial law “gives me nightmares” because the law is unstable. “The whole concept of martial law, there’s not even a unified definition of what it is,” she said.
Are there railings to prevent future presidents from abusing power?
The House of Representatives passed the Protect Our Democracy bill last year and sent it to the Senate. The legislation would prevent presidents from pardoning themselves, strengthen reporting requirements for campaigns, and clarify and enhance criminal penalties for campaigns that accept sought-after or fraudulent foreign information. for political gain.
The Senate has taken no action on the proposal. Without congressional action, questions about the power of the presidency and its expansion remain open. “The Constitution says checks and balances work. If the president goes too far, Congress will restrain him,” Edelman said.
In Trump’s case, Congress has shown no interest in doing so.