WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today joined CNN New Day.
“What worries is me is that we have two new Supreme Court justices, and an Attorney General, who have publicly and repeatedly asserted a view of presidential power that I think is historically overbroad. Meaning they support this unitary executive theory idea, that when Justice Scalia first wrote about it in a dissent, was very much a minority view. They are now in a position to potentially make it the law of the land if there were a Supreme Court decision resolving this fight,” said Senator Coons.
Audio and video available here.
Excerpts from the interview below:
Sen. Coons on if the DOJ has a legal case: I don't think that it's possible to assert executive privilege over everything that Congress might be seeking to get from the executive branch. Look, one of the fundamental powers of Congress is a power of oversight, a power to investigate actions by the executive branch. It's part of our balance of powers, it's something that has been well established over many administrations of both parties. There's always skirmishes, boundary-line issues -- famously, the fight by Richard Nixon to say that he shouldn't have to give up recordings of discussions in the Oval Office, which led to US v. Nixon. There's always been some disagreements, but this is a wholescale effort to exert executive privilege across an entire investigation, and a whole range of things. And John, this fits into a broader approach by the Trump White House to declare Congress' oversight power illegitimate. That's more of a threat to our separation of powers than any specific fight we might be having.
Sen. Coons on whether this is a constitutional crisis. We keep coming up against constitutional crises here, over the last two years. I'll put it this way: President Trump has taken a series of actions over his two years as president where he has genuinely pushed the boundaries, across a whole range of things -- criticizing sitting federal court judges, the way he talks about the media, and now the way that he is challenging the power of Congress. He's done this previously, in terms of spending decisions, he's done it in other ways, in terms of the reach and scope of his executive orders. This is, I think, just another way in which he is genuinely pushing the boundaries of presidential power. John, what worries is me is that we have two new Supreme Court justices, and an Attorney General, who have publicly and repeatedly asserted a view of presidential power that I think is historically overbroad. Meaning they support this unitary executive theory idea, that when Justice Scalia first wrote about it in a dissent, was very much a minority view. They are now in a position to potentially make it the law of the land if there were a Supreme Court decision resolving this fight.
Sen. Coons on the Supreme Court: He might. Exactly why I voted against Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh after vigorous questioning on this, was their views on executive power, which I think are significantly overbroad, and in fact pose a threat to the ways in which our constitutional order has always worked.
Sen. Coons on Iran: This is a significant moment in our many years long effort to try and contain, or hopefully stop, Iran's race towards a nuclear weapon. Iran is a very dangerous, destabilizing power in the region. They export their view of terrorism and their engagement with the region in a way that is extremely harmful to our allies and our interests, and the announcement that they may well go back to enrichment, and enrichment possibly to weapons-grade levels, is very concerning. The JCPOA, the Iran Deal, is something that was cobbled together between Russia, China, our European allies, and the United States, and at its most positive it gave us searching inspections -- insight into what Iran was doing, and they committed to not develop a nuclear weapon. It was flawed, in that it didn't include or cover ballistic missiles, and it didn't provide enough controls over Iran's other destabilizing actions. But on balance I thought it was the right thing for us to do, and unfortunately by leaving it, and by some of the recent actions of the administration, I think the Iranians are now testing our resolve, and the resolve of our allies, to continue to work to contain them.
More on Iran: I'm not going to pre-judge yet what the current actions are. I haven't been briefed on the intelligence that's been talked about in the press and by some senior administration officials, that they say justified sending an aircraft carrier group and a wing of bombers to the region. I have no doubt that Iran is a dangerous and destabilizing force, but there are ways in which our escalating rhetoric and actions will almost certainly be met by escalation on the Iranian side. The question is, is this the right path towards ultimately finding some resolution with Iran. In the first year of the Trump administration, the heated rhetoric between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un of North Korea was pretty stunning. It has turned to negotiations. It is my hope that that's ultimately where they intend to go with this.
Sen. Coons on Trump's financial losses: It's pretty striking, I have to say. Back during the campaign, I had a friend who was a big fan of Donald Trump, saying "He's such a great businessman," and I remember saying "He literally ran three casinos into the ground." What do you know about casinos -- they always make money. That he went bankrupt so spectacularly in a number of his biggest ventures does raise one question, which Jeffery Toobin was just raising on your last roundtable: how was he bailed out? Who funded a gentleman who lost so much money across so many different undertakings? That's really the question that's worth asking at this point. Yes, it was a striking report in the New York Times.