Trump SCOTUS pick: It's 'traditional' for presidents to ignore some laws


Trump's Supreme Court pick thinks it's standard practice for presidents to just ignore laws they personally think are unconstitutional.

Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's nominee to become the next Supreme Court justice, said in 2013 that it's a "traditional exercise" of executive power for the president to ignore laws if they view them as unconstitutional.

The remarks, which were first uncovered by CNN, provide further evidence of Kavanaugh's extreme interpretation of the scope of presidential power.

Kavanaugh made the comments in response to questioning about former President George W. Bush's use of signing statements to bypass laws passed by Congress. As White House staff secretary during the Bush administration, Kavanaugh played a major role in drafting these signing statements, which some say were used to ignore laws the president didn't like.


Speaking at Ohio's Case Western Reserve Law School, Kavanaugh was asked about the controversial signing statements, to which he replied that grievances can be taken to the court if it is believed that the president is not following the law. He also said Congress has the authority to object under the same circumstances.

But, he added, if a president signs a bill "and says these certain provisions in here are unconstitutional, and we're not going to follow those provisions, that is a traditional exercise of power by Presidents."

As CNN noted, Kavanaugh took a similar stance in a 2013 legal opinion, writing that the White House must follow the law "unless the President has a constitutional objection."

"If the President has a constitutional objection to a statutory mandate or prohibition, the President may decline to follow the law unless and until a final Court order dictates otherwise," he wrote.

In other words, Kavanaugh believes the president holds the power to decide whether or not to follow laws passed by Congress, unless a court forces him to comply.

This viewpoint is in line with other extreme positions held by Trump's Supreme Court pick.

Kavanaugh is an advocate of unitary executive theory ― a judicial philosophy that champions unchecked presidential power over the executive branch. In previous statements, he has said it is not in the public interest to indict a sitting president.

In an article for the Minnesota Law Review, Kavanaugh even went as far as arguing that presidents should not be bothered by any type of litigation while in office and thus should be exempted from both criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits.

More recently, he suggested that he thought it was perfectly acceptable to overturn Supreme Court rulings, raising questions about how far he'd try to go if appointed to the court.

To find out more about Kavanaugh's extreme views, Democrats are demanding access to documents from Kavanaugh's time serving as a staff secretary in the Bush White House. But thus far Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has rejected their demands.

Now that we know Kavanaugh thinks it's standard practice to use presidential signing statements to skirt the law, Democrats may have new leverage in their fight to see those documents.

Any Supreme Court pick who views laws as negotiable and previous court rulings as temporary should be viewed with a high degree of skepticism, and thorough vetting should be non-negotiable.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.