Publications as diverse as GQ and The Guardian are all coming to the same scary conclusion: you might be living through the most significant constitutional crisis since Watergate. The most recent supporting evidence is President Donald Trump's move to fire the acting attorney general, Sally Yates. She was an Obama appointee, sure, but she was working for Trump and interpreting laws when she decided that the travel ban executive order wasn't something she could support. Trump fired her for that. But that's just one problem; there are seven other signs we're heading for a constitutional crisis.
In case you're not sure what that means, a constitutional crisis is a situation that the legal system doesn't seem to be able to resolve. It threatens to break down the functioning of government because different branches have different stakes — and perhaps ignore those who are supposed to provide their checks and balances. This wouldn't be the first time the country has faced one.
Many pundits have made comparisons between Trump's moves and the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. That's because of the Saturday Night Massacre when President Nixon pushed for the firing of people in the DOJ, quite similarly to Trump. Does that mean this one move is as serious? Not necessarily. But when taken with these other seven signs, it sure doesn't look good.
1Customs & Border Control Ignores Court Rulings
Booker says he thinks CBP is in violation of the judge's order by not letting detainees see lawyers, + that this is a constitutional crisis— Betsy Woodruff (@woodruffbets) January 29, 2017
Before Yates' dismissal, this was the biggest one. Judicial rulings across the country were putting stays on the travel ban, and yet Customs & Border Control defied them in some airports, and didn't even let those detained see lawyers. Who was calling the shots?
2Giuliani Has Advice For A Legal Muslim Ban
Commendable candor from Rudy Giuliani: It is a Muslim ban. https://t.co/aCwKmF6EDA— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) January 29, 2017
Not only is this a Muslim ban, but former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that it was crafted to get around the courts.
3Bannon's Overruling The Lawyers
DHS lawyers told Trump it was illegal to ban green card holders; were overruled by Bannon https://t.co/pWzYESh1Fj— Kelly Hills (@rocza) January 30, 2017
So initially the Department of Homeland Security — before any of the detentions started — "arrived at the legal interpretation" that the executive order didn't apply to green card holders, or legal permanent residents, CNN reported. Then the White House inner circle, headed by Steve Bannon, overruled that finding.
4Purges Of State Department Civil Servants
"The purge has left a gaping hole at the heart of US diplomacy" https://t.co/muw5Ug0qIo— Liz Garbus (@lizgarbus) January 31, 2017
The Guardian reported that Trump removed "key officials from posts that are essential to the day-to-day running of the department and U.S. missions abroad." Whatever the administration's reasoning, that leaves fewer with the experience to know when missteps are made — and less people to object to Trump foreign policy.
5He's Running For Office Again Already
Perhaps it's nothing, but Trump has already filed FEC forms for his 2020 run, which means that you can keep donating to him throughout his entire first term. Of course no one will misconstrue donations with favor-seeking because that's not ever how the swamp works in Washington.
6Bannon's Taking Over For The Generals
As Michael Moore put it on Twitter, "If you're still trying to convince yourself that a 21st century coup is not underway, please, please snap out of it." He was talking about the fact that Trump's advisor, Steve Bannon, is now on the National Security Council. This is the group that advises the president on things like killing U.S. citizens in drone strikes.
7And Don't Forget "Alternative Facts"
Don't forget Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts" in this discussion. Who's to say the public will agree that any of the previously mentioned issues have actually happened? Matt Malone wrote for America magazine that the actual facts matter for the health of American democracy. He's right.
This should all worry the country's citizens. Perhaps this latest issue regarding Yates' firing will bring these other troubling developments back into the spotlight. If not, we might have to learn the hard way what happens in a constitutional crisis.