The Dangerous Powers Obama Left in Trump’s Hands

Obama restored the rule of law, but did so by legalizing broad executive powers that now belong to Trump.

January 19, 2017

Cross-posted at Fortune

President-elect Donald Trump has expressed a near-autocratic view of executive authority, leading many to worry that he will play fast and loose with the laws that protect Americans’ freedoms. After 9/11, our nation had a taste of this approach, as President George W. Bush claimed he was not bound by statutes or treaties when acting to protect the nation. President Barack Obama rejected that view, maintaining that the president, like everyone else, must obey the law.

But there is another side to this admirable aspect of Obama’s legacy. With the notable exception of torture, in restoring the rule of law, he did not actually renounce Bush’s extraordinarily broad vision of executive power. Instead, Obama sought to put it on firmer legal footing—sometimes with help from Congress or the courts, sometimes simply by articulating a legal justification for government actions.

This choice may prove to have fateful consequences. By buttressing with legal authority some of the most breathtaking powers asserted under Bush, Obama paradoxically may have made it easier for Trump to abuse them. This risk will be particularly acute in the following four areas:

Read the full article at Fortune.

(Photo: Flickr.com/GageSkidmore)