An Agenda for the Future: The Dangers and Opportunities of Presidential Succession
ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow and ACLJ Director of Public Policy Harry Hutchison also contributed to this post.
The American people have spoken. They have demanded change. They have rejected the failed policies of the last four years. They have demanded accountability from our leaders and an adherence to our Constitution.
As President-elect Donald J. Trump prepares to assume office, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) believes that this transition presents the United States with grave dangers and crucial opportunities.
In this vein, we are proposing an agenda to restore our Constitution. Our agenda concentrates on two distinct but related time periods: (1) the next 66 days of the Obama Administration, perhaps the most dangerous period for lawless Executive overreach in recent memory and (2) the first 100 days of the Trump Administration.
First, President Obama’s Administration has become one of the most lawless and most ethically challenged in the history of the republic despite the willingness of some courts to curtail this pattern.
The Constitution has set clear limits in place on the arbitrary use of Executive power that ensures the protection of our freedoms and the rule of law. Our government exists not to sustain itself but rather to protect and defend individual liberty. A government infected by bureaucratic pathologies cannot protect and defend liberty and is therefore not a government worth sustaining. This admonition implicates the Obama Administration’s pattern of behavior and serves notice that the waning days of this Administration are rife with the probability of additional Executive and regulatory overreach.
Since the Obama Administration has already demonstrated its voracious appetite for executive rule by issuing more than 20,000 new regulations so far, and hundreds of Executive orders – many of which exceed constitutional bounds – it is obvious that the last 67 days of President Obama’s Administration present the President with the tantalizing temptation to go rogue in order to thwart the looming disintegration of his leftist legacy.
It is clear that the Obama Administration’s legal and moral dysfunction (1) has run roughshod over Article II of the Constitution’s Take Care Clause that prevents the President from claiming the same lawmaking powers as Congress, (2) may induce the Administration to violate the notice-and-comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act, and (3) permits the Administration to ignore its self-proclaimed commitment to openness, transparency, and full disclosure. In view of this legal and moral dysfunction, the ACLJ issues a list of possible actions the Obama Administration may take and our corresponding plan of action. As part of this effort, the ACLJ has assembled a team of senior attorneys and staff to monitor and confront the Obama Administration’s inclination to take executive and regulatory action that is unmoored to the Constitution or the text of pertinent statutes.
The ACLJ will:
- Oppose any attempt by President Obama to go to the United Nations (U.N.) to vent his hostility toward Israel by supporting an international effort to compel Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders – indefensible borders that would invite further devastating terrorist attacks. The possibility that President Obama will betray Israel by unilaterally taking this step, demands extreme vigilance that includes our ongoing petition drive.
- Oppose all nominations by President Obama to the federal courts. This includes maintaining our opposition to the Senate holding hearings on any nominee, including Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The American people have spoken and it is up to the next President to choose Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement and to fill vacancies in the federal judiciary.
- Demand that the Obama Administration observe its asserted commitment to openness and transparency and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by complying with all our current FOIA requests and respond expeditiously to our FOIA litigation against the State Department and the Justice Department. Our willingness to take action against the Obama Administration’s ongoing refusal to comply with the law is best exemplified by actions we have taken against the Orwellian conduct of the Department of Justice.
- Emphasize the protection of Christians and others from genocide, particularly in the Middle East, consistent with the Obama Administration’s declaration that genocide against Christians is currently taking place. Since ISIS (the Islamic State) has carried out one unthinkable atrocity after another, this genocide demands an immediate response by the Obama Administration. Therefore, we will continue to challenge the Obama Administration’s inaction and we will continue to demand action consistent with our plan to combat genocide. The ACLJ’s plan includes a demand that the U.N. Security Council refer the matter of genocide to the International Criminal Court or establish “ad hoc tribunals” for purposes of prosecution; call upon the President and State Department to demand that the U.N. act expeditiously to ensure collective action to end genocide; the establishment of in-region safe zones for the victims of genocide; and the establishment of an effective international coalition to defeat ISIS militarily.
- Oppose any effort by the Obama Administration to expand the number of refugees admitted to this country during the Administration’s remaining days because we recognize that admitting improperly vetted refugees into the United States poses a clear and present danger.
- Scrutinize any new regulations by the Obama Administration during its remaining days because we are cognizant of the adverse impact on the economy and the rule of law posed by Executive overreach in federal agencies and the Obama Administration's propensity to move in this direction. To that end, ACLJ staff will check the Federal Register daily, all press releases, all daily briefings, and all policy memorandums issued by federal agencies. This comprehensive effort will require the examination of both formal and informal action over the remaining days of the Obama Administration.
Our Government Accountability Project is meticulously reviewing each and every action this Administration takes in its waning days; and we are ready, willing, and able to combat any unconstitutional Executive actions President Obama may attempt to take. We’ve won before, and we will win again.
Second, as a new administration takes office we have a major opportunity to put forward and support a positive proactive agenda for America – to defend our Constitution and sustain our liberty.
In recognition of the importance of the first 100 days of the Trump Administration for purposes of returning the rule of law to our constitutional republic and recognizing that President-elect Trump has released his plan for the first 100 days, the ACLJ has our very own agenda that is consistent with our unbreakable commitment to limited government, religious liberty, and constitutional order. We have organized our agenda action items into three categories: statutory changes, executive actions and policy initiatives, and additional items.
A. Statutory Change
- Repeal and replace ObamaCare with a focus on the advancement of a patient-centered, consumer-driven program that emphasizes choice and competition.
- Enact a statute that defunds Planned Parenthood, putting an end to giving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars a year to the nation’s largest abortion provider.
- Repeal the Johnson Amendment, which precludes ministers and churches from engaging in First Amendment-protected activities surrounding elections.
- Enact statutory change to streamline the regulatory process. This initiative should build on the efforts by Senator Lankford that are aimed at reducing the promulgation of regulations and ensuring that regulations that are approved are narrowly crafted and within the bounds of the agency’s constitutional authority.
- Enact legislation to strengthen the nation’s border security and eliminate the possibility that aliens who have entered the United States lawfully do not overstay their visas.
- Prioritize combat readiness by ensuring sufficient funding for military training and maintenance that repairs the damage done by recent budget cuts. In addition, the size of the military should be expanded to deal with threats emerging from the unholy alliance of Russia, Iran, Syria, and radical Islamic terror.
- Consistent with President-elect Trump’s promise, the ACLJ supports the enactment of legislation that redirects federal education funding to give parents the right to send their child to the public, charter, magnet, religious, or home school of their choice.
- Hold congressional leaders’ feet to the fire for purposes of advancing conservative statutory change that improves the lives of all Americans.
B. Executive Action/Agency Regulatory Action
- Expeditiously nominate federal judges at every level of the judiciary up to the Supreme Court who support the rule of law, limited government, and who will uphold the Constitution.
- Recognizing the passage and implementation of a plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare will take some time, the ACLJ supports the initiation of a process to dismantle ObamaCare on Day One. As more fully explained in our Blog Post entitled Seven Steps to Dismantle ObamaCare on Day One, we encourage the Trump Administration to take affirmative steps to (1) issue an immediate waiver of all fines and penalties associated with the individual mandate; or alternatively, since the mandate operates as a tax, President Trump could instruct the IRS to make collection of this tax a low priority, thus signaling that individual taxpayers would not be penalized for failing to purchase qualifying insurance; (2) pursuant to the May 2016 decision by Judge Rosemary Collyer, President Trump should end unconstitutional cost-sharing subsidies to insurers designed to reimburse them for benefits paid to low-income beneficiaries. As a first step, President Trump should accept Judge Collyer’s ruling and drop the Obama Administration’s appeal of this decision; (3) reverse the contraceptive mandate or the current rules requiring institutions such as the Little Sisters of the Poor to violate their conscience with respect to the contraceptive mandate; and (4) examine the more than 1000 waivers issued by the Obama Administration with respect to ObamaCare with the objective of reversing most if not all the waivers and exemptions granted that are not tied to the text of the statute.
- Urge the Trump Administration to act swiftly to enforce long-standing federal conscience laws such as the Church and Weldon Amendments, which protect from discrimination health care entities and providers that refuse to participate in abortions, and reverse all prior agency decisions to the contrary.
- Reverse political correctness within the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice that has fostered numerous intelligence failures. It is manifest that the Obama Administration identify our enemy as radical Islam instead of remaining willfully blind to the connection between terror and a jihadist religious ideology. Rather than understanding that radical Islamic terror is grounded in an ideology, which is promoted by Islamic groups located in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, the Obama Administration has been more concerned with eliminating references to Islam and Sharia from law enforcement training manuals. The incoming Trump Administration should immediately reverse these failed policies.
- Reverse improper citizenship decisions made by the Department of Homeland Security. Since the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama Administration has wrongly granted citizenship to aliens scheduled for either deportation or removal, the ACLJ will urge the Trump Administration within the first 100 days to act to restore integrity and competence to this department. An important first step in restoring integrity and competence requires the reversal of the Obama Administration’s grant of citizenship to potential terrorists contrary to common sense and the rule of law. This wrongful grant of citizenship must be reversed. We urge the Trump Administration to act swiftly to restore confidence in the Homeland Security Department.
- Issue a directive that unleashes the full force of the Department of Homeland Security to secure the U.S. border immediately, by requiring that this agency fully comply with its statutory obligations.
- Urge President-elect Trump (1) to fulfill his campaign pledge to suspend immigration from terror-prone regions of the world where careful vetting cannot be implemented and (2) remove criminal aliens and individuals who have overstayed their visas.
- Implement an immediate plan to deal with Islamic terrorism, including an aggressive root and branch effort to eviscerate the alleged “caliphate” of the Islamic State in the Middle East and eliminate this terrorist entity’s access to black market oil revenue. In addition, it is time for the federal government to identify the enemy in this terror war that we have not chosen. Secondly, it is time to put United States military leaders rather than political bureaucrats in charge of the prosecution of military actions.
- Push for the unification of Jerusalem in Israel, including moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.
- Recognizing the Iran nuclear deal (1) was not ratified by Congress, (2) provides funds to the number one state sponsor of terror, and (3) emboldens Iran to threaten the United States and our allies, the Trump Administration should take immediate steps to reverse the Iran nuclear deal. It should also immediately cancel any future payments or release of funds to the Iranian regime.
- Institute affirmative measures to protect vulnerable minorities, including Christians, particularly in the Middle East from genocide. Develop a plan to penalize nations and terrorist groups that engage in genocide rather than continue the Obama Administration’s policy of inaction and commitment to willful blindness in the face of unmistakable evidence of genocide. As the first step in this process, the ACLJ has sent a letter to President-elect Trump on behalf of our organization and over 225,000 Americans calling for a meaningful response to the ISIS genocide. Call on the President-elect to select nominees for the Department of State, and U.S. Missions to the United Nations and other international organizations who will zealously and consistently advocate within the United Nations for meaningful action consistent with the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide.
- Reverse every Obama Executive order and regulation that defies the Constitution and the rule of law, including those exemplified by executive actions unilaterally rewriting our immigration laws and climate change such as the Paris Accord. Reversing executive overreach is consistent with President-elect Trump’s plan to require that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated.
- Demand the Trump Administration rein in all remaining vestiges of abuse in the IRS, EPA, State Department, Justice Department, and FBI. As part of this effort, we urge the Trump Administration to launch a root-and-branch effort to reverse administrative agency decisions that fail to comply with the rule of law. This requires the removal of obstructionist bureaucrats from federal agencies, including the IRS, the EPA, the Justice Department, and the State Department, and the nomination of competent officials to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Take immediate corrective steps to ensure that no federal agency can again target Americans on account of their beliefs, as the ACLJ continues to fight with bureaucracies like the IRS in federal court. We will also work with President-elect Trump and Congress to ensure that the authority of the IRS is limited and checked. It is time for the most feared of bureaucratic agencies to be brought under control.
- Lift the Obama Administration’s roadblocks to full employment and allow vital energy infrastructure projects like the Keystone Pipeline to move forward.
- Nullify the Obama Administration’s 2009 decision to reverse America’s long-standing Mexico City policy, which requires nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to agree as a condition of receipt of federal funds that such organizations would neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations. The re-institution of Reagan’s Mexico City policy for NGOs responds to the prevailing American consensus that taxpayer funds should not be used to pay for abortions or advocate or actively promote abortion, either in the U.S. or abroad. The Trump Administration should also re-implement the Reagan Rule to defund Planned Parenthood.
C. Additional ACLJ Action Items
- Urge FBI Director Comey to resign immediately consistent with our petition.
- Urge all Americans to continue to pray for the protection of the President of the United States.
At the American Center for Law and Justice, we remain committed to upholding the Constitution and the rule of law. This is a critical time for America – a critical time for our constitutional republic. We will remain vigilant – remain engaged – and will vigorously work to defend the religious and constitutional freedoms that define this great nation.