“No Bill of Attainder… shall be passed…” – Article 1 Section 9
In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned from the Presidency, the only person to ever do so. The primary evidence against him was a set of tapes that he had made in the Oval Office, which purported to contain direct evidence of the Watergate Conspiracy, or at least a lot of buzzing that replaced sections that might have proved the Watergate Conspiracy if they hadn’t been so obviously erased.
After he resigned President Ford pardoned Mr. Nixon on September 8, 1974.
Prior to that day, Presidential papers were not considered “public documents.” They were private papers which belonged to the President. In fact, until Franklin Roosevelt donated his papers to the National Archives through his Presidential Library and Museum in 1939, they had never been available to the public except in the form of books and articles written by researchers who had been granted access.
Until December 19, 1974. On that day, President Ford signed a bill passed by Congress, The Presidential Recordings and Materials Act.” This law, which by definition applied ONLY to the records and Materials of Richard Nixon, made it clear that these were now the property of the United States, to be overseen by the National Archivist, who was charged with determining which records and documents the United States would keep – for potential use in judicial proceedings – and which would be returned as the property of Richard Nixon.
Naturally, the former President sued, claiming that this law was clearly unconstitutional as it violated the ban on Bills of Attainder.
It would take until 1998 to fully resolves Nixon’s role in this. Today, the Federal Courts are preparing to take up two cases that both Defenses are arguing are Bills of Attainder. Will history repeat or will the Courts find that no bills of attainder shall be passed?
On Monday, Judge Leonie Brinckema, a Federal Appeals Judge in Virginia, issued an injunction against President Trumps Immigration Executive Orders on the basis that they are in fact, a Muslim Ban.
The Government has argued that the doctrine of Plenary Powers over National Security and Immigration should make the Orders unreviewable. But can such power be given under the Constitution? If the answer is no, then can statements made outside of the Orders by the President and his advisers be taken into account as to the intent of the orders?
If the answer is yes, are we prepared to accept a country where he sitting President has unchecked power which neither the Courts nor Congress can counterbalance?
It’s a Valentines day Tuesday episode of Constitution Thursday!
You have to understand this, Merrick Garland could not lose.
That was my belief, a little less than a year ago. So much so that I did an episode titles, “Merrick Garland Can’t Lose.” But something happened that should have been an indicator – a warning to Democrats and a ray of hope to Republicans. But everybody – even the people who say that they didn’t – missed it.
And now we have a new Supreme Court nominee who is definitely not, Merrick Garland. How do we explain that? What does it mean? Are there lessons we can learn about this from the crash of a Korean Air Cargo 747?