A dangerous expansion of presidential power has gone virtually unnoticed.
Trump’s supporters can’t believe their man’s primary motivation is acquiring power. Trump’s enemies, other than Senator Feinstein, can’t believe how good he is at it. Neither side will recognize the real danger until it’s too late. Legions of worrywarts fret that an erratic, captured Trump will go off half-cocked and press a nuclear button or do something else almost as stupidly devastating. What should worry them are the precise calculations and bloodless strategies of the most ruthlessly Machiavellian president since Franklin D. Roosevelt as he further consolidates and extends his power. Given present jurisprudence, nothing in the Constitution stands in his way.
“So Deep It’s Sunk,” SLL, 9/3/17
Exhibit One would be President Trump’s Executive Order Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption, dated December 20, 2017. Within various executive orders issued by Trump’s predecessors, there are provisions that would scare the daylights out of any civil libertarian who had the time and intestinal fortitude to go through them. Trump has now added to this dubious pile.
In the finest tradition of such orders, regulations, and laws, the preamble cites Humongous Dangers.
I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, find that the prevalence and severity of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, such as those committed or directed by persons listed in the Annex to this order, have reached such scope and gravity that they threaten the stability of international political and economic systems. Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets. The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.
I therefore determine that serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.
President Trump’s Executive Order
By imperial decree, Trump assumes the power to block, or freeze, the property within the reach or control of the US government of, “any foreign person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General” to have engaged in, “serious human rights abuse” or “corruption.” The power to freeze assets is extended to any entity, including a government, which is led by or has an official who the Gang of Three determine is corrupt or a serious human rights abuser. Thirteen people listed in the annex are so labeled, although it appears that for most of them their crimes are alleged, not established by a judicial determination. An additional 39 individuals and entities were named in a Treasury Department release.
The power is also extended to anyone, US citizen or foreign national, who has “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of” corrupt or human rights abusing foreigners. Keep in mind the government’s wholesale surveillance of Americans began with the claim that it would only be applied to Americans’ foreign contacts. The definition of foreign contacts in that instance has been stretched beyond recognition; look for something similar here.
The order specifies that no prior notice will be given to those whose property is blocked. No judicial recourse is provided, only that the Secretary of Treasury, “in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, is hereby authorized to determine that circumstances no longer warrant the blocking of the property and interests in property of a person listed in the Annex to this order, and to take necessary action to give effect to that determination.” Presumably enabling regulations will detail how those—whether listed in the annex or named later—whose assets are frozen can petition the Secretary of Treasury, if the accused has enough unfrozen assets to hire the necessary legal assistance and run the bureaucratic gamut.
This is civil asset forfeiture going global and running amuck. Civil asset forfeiture allows state and local governments and the federal government to seize assets it deems involved in crime, with no requirement that the property owner be found guilty of any crime. The burden is then on property owners to prove the “innocence” of their property in a judicial proceeding to reclaim the property. Abuse is rampant. In 2014 government took more through civil asset forfeiture ($4.5 billion) than the total lost in burglaries ($3.9 billion, according to the FBI). Fourteen states have amended their laws to require a criminal conviction in most or all forfeiture cases.
Sometimes the federal government and either state or local governments team up and split the booty (the Equitable Sharing Program). Barack Obama tried to stop this practice, but Attorney General Jeff Sessions has reinstated it. President Trump endorsed expansive civil asset forfeiture in off-the-cuff remarks to the National Sheriff’s Association at the White House in February. It’s unclear if Trump knew exactly what he was endorsing.
Judging by this newest executive order, he might have. The executive order does not allow the government to seize the assets in question. However, a freeze, as civil asset forfeiture demonstrates, can be tantamount to seizure for the property owner if it leaves the individual or entity without access to resources. And a future executive order could allow the government to confiscate what it has frozen, which would turn Trump’s executive order into the global equivalent of civil asset forfeiture.
The US government simply has to label a foreign person or entity guilty of corruption or human rights abuse, and not only can their assets be frozen, but the assets of any US citizen or entity that the government determines assisted the foreign person or entity can be as well. This further erodes the tattered remnant of American property rights. Multinational corporations down to individuals now have to worry that their foreign contacts and transactions might run afoul of a bureaucratic determination of culpability by those with whom they contacted or transacted, exposing them to an asset freeze.
The Trump Administration quietly issued an Executive Order (EO) last Thursday…
In “Is Trump Winning?” SLL said that, “when Trump does anything quietly, take note.” Aside from the Zero Hedge article there has been remarkably little said in either the mainstream or alternative media about this sweeping order, though it puts within the Trump Administration’s grasp a substantial portion of the world’s assets. The Zero Hedge article was generally laudatory, and that site has long been vigilant concerning expanding government and its many dangers.
President Trump is amassing power. Civil liberties are merely an obstacle, notwithstanding his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Some of his fans are delighted that this new executive order will make it easier for him to go after his enemies, especially the detested Clintons and their foundation. The 13 people listed in the annex are alleged to have done dastardly deeds, and some have ties to the Clintons. However, executive orders establish law and precedent, and this one will give a future president the power to go after a different set of enemies—maybe Trump supporters or even Trump himself.
Perhaps legislation would have to be passed or an executive order promulgated allowing the president to jail anyone he or she chooses without a trial before they’d see the danger, and even then they might not object…at least until Trump was out of office. For the rest of us, the message is clear: Trump craves power and is adept at acquiring it. The modus operandi of governments is clear: what they acquire is taken from someone else. What Trump acquires will ultimately be at the cost of our liberty and individual rights. Once they’re gone, there’s nothing left.