Monday, January 21, 2019

Capricious, reckless and illegal

            It took till almost after lunchtime, Day 1 of this reign, for fact-checkers to start losing track of the torrent of lies flowing from President Donald Trump's lips.

            Similarly, one loses track of the progression of his policies that judges have declared half-cocked, presumptive and unconstitutional.

            The latest? A federal judge has ruled against the administration's plans to inquire about citizenship on the census.

            Disregard the fact that such a question is certain to drive down response rates and unnecessarily give the census an inaccurate picture of who lives here.

            What U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman found was that in springing this on the nation, the Trump Commerce Department violated the Administrative Procedure Act enacted in 1946, which requires agencies to be deliberative and thorough rather than "pretextual," legal-speak for concocting a false reason for a planned action.

            Think of a black bear that stumbles into a camp cooler you unknowingly put in his path. The bear takes a paw the size of your head and has its way with the bacon, eggs and yogurt. No matter that the bear would've gone hunting for the cooler wherever you put it, because he relies on brute force to get what he wants. The cooler in his lumbering path was a pretext to break in.

            Judges repeatedly tell the Trump administration it can't have its way with whatever it can get its paws on.

            It happened in November when a federal judge blocked construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline because the administration had not done an updated environmental analysis.

            Now we are at a point where Trump talks about stringing together whatever means he can to create a physical barrier at the Mexico border. On the pretext of preventing terrorism, and the pretext that Democrats want open borders. Two more lies.

            Memo to the president: The government doesn't own much of the land in question. It's owned by countless land owners. You know: private property.

            Aside from that question is the host of environmental considerations working against a break-neck quest to build a wall on biologically sensitive and often inaccessible areas.

            One key environmental issue is the matter of drainage and flooding. Nogales, Ariz., and the twin border city from which it is has been walled off, knows all about it.

            On multiple occasions the barrier there has contributed to massive flooding and millions of dollars in damage.

            That's just one of countless environmental issues posed by something that would require intense and prolonged study and mitigation. Trump may not think so, but the courts will.

            One border issue is the fact that you just can't build a wall along certain stretches of the Rio Grande. The solution apparently has been to move the wall yards or miles from the river itself and, in effect, to cede the property to Mexico.

            Explain that to the American owner whose property suddenly becomes part of Mexico, with no access for the property owner. Better yet, explain that to a judge.

            Then there's the issue of disrupting habitat crucial to survival or any number of migratory species along the border – like the musk turtle and the Santa Catalina Island fox. Ah, they're just animals. Who cares? Well, something called the Endangered Species Act – otherwise known as a law – exists to protect them.

            It doesn't matter if Donald Trump doesn't care. What matters is that he has to follow the law.

            Away from strange and forbidding lands he can't comprehend, what other law is Trump trampling? How about there in Manhattan, where a parade of foreign dignitaries have been pumping cash into Trump International Hotel in violation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause?

            Two federal judges have allowed suits to proceed against Trump over this matter.

            You'd think that someone in Team Trump would wonder about the legality of this.

            However, according to a new watchdog report, lawyers for the General Services Administration, clearly groomed to do Trump's bidding, downplayed or ignored the host of conflicts posed by the president running a hotel patronized by foreign players.

            Thanks goodness for a branch of government that can tell Donald Trump that he can't ransack things just because he runs one branch of it. Now that the opposition party has real power in the legislative branch, many more hard lessons loom ahead.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:



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