Conservative attorneys blast Bill Barr’s ‘incorrect’ interpretation of Trump’s constitutional powers

Conservative attorneys blast Bill Barr’s ‘incorrect’ interpretation of Trump’s constitutional powers
William Barr image by U.S. Department of Justice

On CNN Monday, Paul Rosenzweig and Stuart Green, a pair of conservative attorneys who are part of the Trump-critical legal group Checks and Balances, sharply criticized Attorney General William Barr, who recently argued President Donald Trump has virtually unlimited executive power at a speech to the right-wing Federalist Society.

“I want to begin with that letter, and quoting from that,” said anchor Bianna Golodryga. “You write, ‘In recent months, we have become concerned by the conduct of Attorney General William Barr. Barr rewrote history with the unsupported claim his view of presidential power was shared by the founders. Barr’s view of history, including his claim that founders shared in any respect his vision of an unchecked president and his assertion that this view was dominant until it came under attack from courts and Congress a few decades ago, has no factual basis.’ Paul, let me begin with you. Why do you believe that it has no factual basis?”

“Well, because it doesn’t,” said Rosenzweig, who previously worked for independent prosecutor Ken Starr. “The very first Congress conducted oversight investigations of President George Washington, one of the very first courts ruled that it had authority as a judicial branch to oversee the executive and direct it not to follow unconstitutional laws. To say that the assault on presidential authority is a novel thing is wrong. Plus, I mean, just to finish it all off, that’s why we fought a revolution against the unchecked authority of an executive branch.”

“And Stuart, we know that the attorney general spoke at the Federalist Society last week to a round of applause from the audience there,” said Golodryga. “He basically asserted that the president never overstepped his authority. How is he wrong?”

“Well, he has a categorical view of presidential authority that is frankly incorrect,” said Green, who served as an adviser to President George H. W. Bush. “He describes the unitary executive theory, which I myself have argued in support of, of president’s war powers, but all that says is that the executive branch is one body and speaks with one voice that’s the president’s. There are three co-equal branches, and that’s what the framers had in mind. It wasn’t just an authoritarian that the framers wanted to ensure against, it was authoritarianism, tyranny, and by setting up checks and balances that’s exactly what happened.”

“A good example of a judge recognizing that recently is our case in Texas, where the president, irrespective of his powers, attempted to reprogram money that was denied to him by the Congress,” said Green. “That’s invading an Article I power. The president thinks Article II lets him do anything he wants. He’s wrong, both actually in terms of the structural Constitution, and historically.”

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