Trump Consults Bush Torture Lawyer On How To Skirt The Law And Rule By Decree

Attorney John Yoo during a discussion on the Supreme Court and Brett Kavanaugh at the Hoover Institution on August 28th, 2018.Screengrab / Hoover Institution / YouTube


John Yoo wrote a memo in 2002 indicating that "necessity or self-defense" could legally justify the use of torture.

According to The Guardian, the Trump administration has consulted former government lawyer John Yoo, who wrote the legal justification for waterboarding during the George W. Bush administration, on how President Trump might attempt to rule by decree.

  • Yoo told the newspaper that “he has been talking to White House officials about his view that a recent supreme court ruling on immigration would allow Trump to issue executive orders on whether to apply existing federal laws.”

“The supreme court has said President Obama could [choose not to] enforce immigration laws for about 2 million cases. And why can’t the Trump administration do something similar with immigration – create its own … program, but it could do it in areas beyond that, like healthcare, tax policy, criminal justice, inner city policy. I talked to them a fair amount about cities, because of the disorder.”

  • The Guardian noted that Trump declared in a Fox News interview over the weekend that “he would try to use that interpretation to try to force through decrees on healthcare, immigration and “various other plans” over the coming month.”
  • In an article in the National Review last month, Yoo laid out his interpretation of the recent Supreme Court ruling that “that blocked Trump’s attempt to repeal Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme, known as Daca and established by executive order.”
  • Yoo wrote that the decision “meant Trump could do the same thing to achieve his policy goals.”

As an example of what Trump might achieve in the same way, Yoo suggested the president could declare a national right to carry firearms openly, in conflict with many state laws.

“He could declare that he would not enforce federal firearms laws,” Yoo wrote, “and that a new ‘Trump permit’ would free any holder of state and local gun-control restrictions.”

  • The Guardian noted that “Constitutional scholars have rejected Yoo’s arguments as ignoring limits on the executive powers of the president imposed by the founders, who were determined to prevent the rise of a tyrant.”
  • Laurence Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law professor, wrote on Twitter: “This is how it begins. The dictatorial hunger for power is insatiable. If ever there was a time for peaceful civil disobedience, that time is upon us.”
  • Tribe also said Yoo’s interpretation is “indefensible” and told The Guardian:

“I fear that this lawless administration will take full advantage of the fact that judicial wheels grind slowly and that it will be difficult to keep up with the many ways Trump, aided and abetted by Bill Barr as attorney general and Chad Wolf as acting head of homeland security, can usurp congressional powers and abridge fundamental rights in the immigration space in particular but also in matters of public health and safety.”

  • Yoo, a professor at Berkeley Law, “became notorious for a legal memo he drafted in August 2002, when he was deputy assistant attorney general in the justice department’s office of legal counsel.”
  • The memo stated: “Necessity or self-defense may justify interrogation methods that might violate” the criminal prohibition on torture.
  • Yoo’s memos “were used for justifying waterboarding and other forms of torture on terrorism suspects at CIA “black sites” around the world.”

In his new book titled "Defender in Chief," due for publication next week, Yoo "argues that Donald Trump is restoring the powers of the presidency envisioned by the framers of the US constitution."

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