*This article comes from DCReport and is used with permission.
By David Cay Johnston*
In a breathtaking display of both ignorance of our Constitution and contempt for its principles, Donald Trump declared in writing Wednesday that he would deliver the State of Union address on the House floor on Jan 29.
“It would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location!”
Trump has no right to set foot on the House floor, nor, for that matter, the Senate chamber.
Congress is equal to the Executive under our Constitution. Indeed, the principal duty of the president is to do what Congress directs within the confines set by the federal courts.
As the leader of an equal branch, the House Speaker decides who may enter the House chamber, just as Trump controls who may enter the White House. Similarly, the Supreme Court, the third equal branch, determines access to federal courts.
Trump would know this had he simply read the opening two sentences of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s letter Jan. 3 letter inviting him:
“The Constitution established the legislative, executive and judicial branches as co-equal branches of government, to be a check and balance on each other. The Constitution also call the President to ‘from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.’”
Should Trump try and enter the chamber there is no doubt that Speaker Pelosi would direct the Sergeants-at-Arms to block his way.
Trump’s letter is a serious threat to our Constitutional government, not the mere “tit-for-tat” squabble being portrayed in the mainstream press, which too often treats all arguments and facts as equal instead of declaring falsehoods, lies and manipulations for what they are.
Trump’s conduct here is better reported the way newspapers and broadcast programs cover heinous crimes, in which suspects and convicted offenders are normally not treated as having an equal argument to those who enforce the law.
Trump is the 100% cause of the current shutdown.
On Dec. 11, during a live national television broadcast from the Oval Office where he was meeting with Pelosi and the Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, he said, “I am proud to shut down the government for border security, Chuck. … I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”
Just ten days later, Trump tried to escape his responsibility, tweeting “The Democrats now own the shutdown!”
Immediately upon becoming Speaker on Jan. 3 Pelosi had the new House vote for the Senate Republican spending bill. That tactic allowed her to hoist Trump and any Republicans who stayed with him on their own budgetary petard.
When Trump later refused to negotiate with Democrats, walking out of one meeting and calling it a waste of time, Pelosi withdrew her invitation to speak on Jan. 29. However, Pelosi agreed to a later date—after the government fully re-opens. Pelosi wrote:
“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after the government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th.”
It’s not likely Trump would make such a foolish move as trying to force his way into the House chamber. However, since he has staffed the White House with utterly unqualified people, and the few with even modicums of competence have been fired or quit, it is also not clear who would explain the basics of our Constitution to Trump. (Remember when candidate Trump promised voters that he would only appoint the best of the best? Now he can’t even find someone to be his chief of staff.)
Pelosi responded to Trump’s plan, reiterating Wednesday afternoon her position that once the government opens up fully the president will be welcome.
Trump, in characteristic fashion, replied with a lie: “The State of the Union has been canceled by Nancy Pelosi because she doesn’t want to hear the truth.”
Of course, the majority of these annual presidential reports have not been delivered by the sitting president on Capitol Hill. Trump is free to just send a letter, for example, or give a radio address.
His fact-free response is just the latest example of how America is being run by the would-be tinhorn dictator of a banana republic who that holds himself above any law. Another example of Third Worldism: Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime fixer, said he will not appear to testify before a House committee next month because Trump and his television lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, are threatening his family. Trump, egged on by Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, threatened to investigate Cohen’s father-in-law, an act so audacious that even right-wing news organization covered it.
Should Trump go to Capitol Hill next Tuesday, it may prompt discussion of what happened when a British dictator, King Charles I, asserted that Parliament be damned, he could do as he pleased. Charles I was removed from office, convicted of treason and, 370 years ago, beheaded on Jan. 30, 1649.
Under our Constitution we use impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors, followed by a trial in the Senate, to determine if a president should be removed from office and, upon conviction, banned for life from public office.
Much as Trump spars with Pelosi, his conduct shows that it is the Office of Speaker he holds in contempt, a sign of his dictatorial instincts.
When Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, came to the Oval Office to talk about healthcare, Trump had no interest in listening to the Speaker.
“Trump sipped on a glass of Diet Coke, peered out at the Rose Garden, stared aimlessly at the walls and, finally, walked out. Ryan kept talking as the president wandered down the hall to his private dining room, where he flicked on his giant flat-screen TV,” according to a Washington Post report.
Much more about the chaos in a White House run by people with no appreciation of our Constitution is revealed in “Team of Vipers,” a book to be published the same day as the State of the Union was to be given. Cliff Sims, a Trump loyalist who served on the White House staff, is the author of the book, already at No. 8 on the Amazon bestseller list.
According to Sims, “It’s impossible to deny how absolutely out of control the White House staff—again, myself included—was at times.”
Trump’s letter reeks of his belief that he is a ruler, not an executive manager, a belief also demonstrated in his many remarks expressing admiration and even his love for murderous dictators including Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Rodrigo Duterte, Xi Jinping and the Saudi royals, who three years ago beheaded 40 men for the offense of praying for government reform.
Trump’s letter may come with a thin silver lining. It could provide an opportunity to rid America of this annual exercise in using a government platform for partisan political purposes.
Our Constitution does not require such a speech. It only demands that the executive “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
In the 230 years that our Constitution has been in effect, only 95 times has a president delivered his required report in a speech before Congress.
Thomas Jefferson found the practice, begun by George Washington in 1790, offensive to our Constitutional system. Jefferson thought the forum was too close to the annual address from the throne by British kings. America’s propaganda ministry, the Voice of America, which broadcasts overseas, reminded listeners of this just last week.
“For Thomas Jefferson’s first address on Dec. 8, 1801, he sent written copies to both houses of Congress to be read by each chamber’s clerks. Jefferson wanted to simplify what he believed was an aristocratic imitation of the British monarch’s speech from the throne, which he thought ill-suited for a republic,” the propaganda ministry report stated.