Since his election in 2016, Donald Trump’s presidency has pushed the left to its limits of sanity, but the newest crackpot conspiracy theory CBS News has advanced might be the most deranged yet.
On this week’s “CBS Sunday Morning,” senior contributor and establishment media dinosaur Ted Koppel reported that Trump could use his “secret powers” conferred by the Presidential Emergency Action Documents to suspend the U.S. Constitution.
Koppel and his guests stretched and molded the truth to craft a narrative that these documents, which they admitted have existed through several administrations, grant Trump unchecked powers that should frighten Americans since he has supposedly alluded to his desire to use them.
“The power of the president is enormous,” Koppel began in the setup, characterizing Trump as “not bashful” in asserting power and ominously warning that restraints “might not apply to all the president’s powers.”
The former host of ABC’s “Nightline” tried to make the case that his cartoon-villain-in-chief desired to use PEADs for a power grab by spinning off Trump’s quote about the power of his presidency, even though that interpretation is easily debunked.
“I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about,” Trump said in the clip Koppel used to make his case.
“We can’t know for sure,” Koppel said, “but what the president appears to have been referring to are his Presidential Emergency Action Documents, often referred to as PEADs.”
Actually, we can know for sure because that sentence punctuated remarks Trump made March 12 when speaking about his powers under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.
“We have very strong emergency powers under the Stafford Act, ” he continued. “And we are — we have it — I mean, I have it memorized, practically, as to the powers in that act. And if I need to do something, I’ll do it.”
“I have the right to do a lot of things that people don’t even know about,” Trump said, probably referring to his deep knowledge of the 192-page document regular folks normally wouldn’t read.
Nonetheless, Koppel kept building the narrative on his faulty interpretation, with former Democratic Colorado Sen. Gary Hart declaring that he only heard about these secret powers after research from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School somehow uncovered what his half a century of involvement in national security did not.
“What these secret powers are, apparently, based on the research, is suspension of the Constitution, basically,” Hart said. “And that’s what’s worrying, particularly on the eve of the national election.”
Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center, admitted PEADS were historically drafted in case of national catastrophes but claimed that “what’s alarming about that is that no one really knows what the limits of those claimed authorities might be because they are often developed and kept in secret.”
But she revealed PEADs were repeatedly referenced in other government documents, meaning their existence was known about in some circles as far back as the President Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, which used them to prepare for the threat of nuclear war with the Soviets.
Goitein said the PEAD plans have included things such as the unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus and implementation of martial law, but the Brennan Center document the program used for reference was dated Sept. 22, 1958, and provided no context for such measures, making it mostly irrelevant to the Trump administration except to provide precedence.
She also lamented the documents do not clear Congress and have never been leaked (normally considered a good thing when talking about government secrets except during Republican presidencies), but the Center’s website has documents referencing PEADs going back several administrations.
Hart said they’ve been around for “11 administrations” but supposedly remain secret so as not to “frighten the American people” about the power the president has in an emergency.
The only conclusion, then, is that their existence and the power therein are only relevant now that Trump is in the White House.
David Cole, the national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, confirmed that as he piled onto the paranoia with his litany of the president’s supposed sins against wokeness that somehow indicate a penchant for authoritarian rule, despite Trump’s continual willingness to help states deal with COVID-19 without making national top-down policy.
“We’ve got a president,” Cole said, “who, in his first week in office, essentially declared an emergency to ban Muslims from coming into the country; more recently, declared a widely understood to be a fake emergency in order to build a border wall when Congress told him they would not give him the funds to create a border wall; and most recently, has declared that he may need to delay the election, which would be an emergency authority that doesn’t even exist.
“So I think you have to be very concerned.”
Koppel even trotted out former George W. Bush Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, who said he was unable to confirm the documents’ existence but proceeded to speak about what his role would have been in reviewing them.
Yoo, who is currently a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, acknowledged the necessity of presidential emergency powers because of the endless possibilities and the need to act swifty, even if they come with the risk of abuse.
Koppel dismissed Yoo’s commonsense approach with Goitein’s insinuation that Trump has dictatorial aspirations; during the periodic review of PEADs, she said, “we have to imagine what the Trump administration might be doing with these documents and what authorities this administration might be trying to give itself.”
Hart also expressed his distrust and said the plans should be publicized, which of course is a terrible idea since many of the scenarios would likely include plans for enemy combatants and domestic terrorism, thus handing the opposition America’s playbook.
“I can’t say it any better. This is a blueprint for dictatorship,” Hart said. “Now, I think the more attention it gets, the less likely those in power are going to use them.”
“This goes to the core of our country and our founding,” he added. “And if there is what amounts to the capability to suspend our Constitution, that’s not just another issue. That’s serious. …
“Keep in mind, the current incumbent president has declared seven national emergencies, and he has stated repeatedly that he has more power than most people know about.”
Right — seven national emergencies, and not one of them using the powers Trump is supposedly champing at the bit to exploit, including a global pandemic that would seem made to order for that type of takeover.
The segment ended with Koppel yucking it up with Hart about how “frightening” that prospect would be.
Koppel and his guests didn’t make a very compelling argument that these documents are super-secret, and they made assertions about Trump that are demonstrably false.
They also ignored the fact that there’s nothing remarkable about any administration preparing for doomsday scenarios that require considering drastic emergency measures should the need arise.
This would be a nonstory except that it is the latest iteration of Trump Derangement Syndrome, with this premise even shakier than the Russia collusion hoax, the Ukraine aid conspiracy, the secret police narrative or even the current post office row.
The Democrats and the leftists in the mainstream media are becoming increasingly unhinged and desperate to destroy the president.
If Trump wanted to take over using these supposed unchecked dictatorial powers, he could have done so already, and clearly he hasn’t.
Instead, the president has handed power back to the states any chance he gets and has run the country like a competent executive who delegates where appropriate.
While conservatives always have a healthy distrust for government, leftists only care about government power when it isn’t one of their own who holds the reins.
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