Former Supreme Court Justice Says Trump is “Exercising Powers that Do Not Really Belong to Him”

Published on May 11, 2019 by Athena Pallas

Among the “things we should all be concerned about” in regards to President Trump is Trump “exercising powers that do not really belong to him”, said retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, according to The Hill. Stevens, 99, who was appointed to the highest court in the land by a Republican president and who retired from the Supreme Court in 2010, made the remarks in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. Stevens specifically cited Trump’s decision to defy congressional subpoenas as being beyond Trump’s presidential authority. According to The Hill:

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said this week that he is concerned President Trump is “exercising powers that do not really belong to him.” Stevens, 99, who retired in 2010, told The Wall Street Journal there are “things we should all be concerned about.” When pressed for specifics, Stevens said he thinks Trump is exercising powers that are not within a president’s authority. “I mean, he has to comply with subpoenas and things like that,” Stevens, an appointee of former Republican President Ford, told the outlet. …Stevens was appointed to the high court in 1975 and was confirmed 98-0 by a Democratic-led Senate to succeed a liberal justice. He retired from the bench as the head of the liberal minority, the Journal noted. …Stevens’s comments came after Trump vowed last month to fight “all the subpoenas” issued by House Democrats as they seek to investigate his campaign, business and administration.

Trump, who appears to want to undermine congressional authority to provide oversight of him and his administration, has told current and former White House officials not to testify before House committees voluntarily and even told them to defy subpoenas requiring such testimony. Trump has also fought subpoenas seeking documents, such as the documents about Trump’s business and personal finances requested from Capital One and Deutsche Bank in subpoenas issued by House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA); Trump has filed a lawsuit to vacate those subpoenas, which has stalled document turnover until that case is decided. In a separate lawsuit Trump is also trying to stop a subpoena from House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) which seeks records from accounting firm Mazars USA about Trump; that subpoena is in part motivated by testimony from former Trump fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen that Trump often misstated his wealth to gain an advantage, undervaluing his real estate holdings for tax purposes, but then overvaluing those same holdings in order to get loans and to be ranked higher on Forbes’ list of the wealthiest people.

Trump has also had his administration, namely Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, refuse to comply with a House request for copies of Trump’s tax recent tax returns from House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal (D-MA). Neal moved forward yesterday to subpoena those tax returns. It is unlikely the Trump administration will comply with these subpoenas either, so this issue is likely also headed for a court battle. Trump’s side has attempted to argue that the motivation for the request is political and therefore illegitimate, but the law under which Neal requested copies of Trump’s returns does not give any restrictions as to the reason they may be requested, so Trump’s side is likely to be defeated in court. All of this stonewalling, refusing to comply, and suing to stop lawful requests and subpoenas, although unlikely to be successful ultimately, is allowing the Trump administration to stall in providing information. Court battles can drag out for long periods of time, so it remains to be seen if these issues will be resolved before the 2020 election.

Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.