In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's dishonesty and his record of disregarding the rule of law. The update -- recently published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. Impeachment is becoming likely.
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone sent an eight-page-long middle finger to House Democratic leaders on Tuesday, pledging resistance to the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
As a legal matter, Cipollone’s letter is nonsense. Several court decisions make it clear that the White House is not above the law. Executive privilege is real, and it sometimes prevents some inquiries into presidential behavior, but it is not an absolute privilege — especially in the context of a criminal investigation.
As a practical matter, however, Trump is likely to get away with it because there’s no one who can stop him. House investigators and others may be able to obtain a court order requiring the White House to comply with an investigation. But if Trump continues to refuse, Congress and the courts have limited options.
As Alexander Hamilton once wrote of courts: the judiciary “may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.”
The constitutional mechanism, meanwhile, for dealing with a lawless president — impeachment and conviction — requires at least 20 Republican senators to vote to remove a president of their own party.
So long as Trump believes that his fellow partisans will hang together, he has little incentive to comply with a court order.
The question of how to define a “constitutional crisis” is hotly contested among scholars. Yet one common definition, according to Georgetown law professor Victoria Nourse, is “a fight among branches of government in which neither side backs down, and there is no clear resolution within the constitutional system.”