Trump circumvents lawmakers with yet another interim appointment – Washington Examiner
President Trump announced on Twitter yesterday that Kevin McAleenan will be taking over as acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security following the resignation of Kirstjen Nielsen on Sunday.
There’s one problem with this: It’s illegal.
Federal law explicitly excludes the application of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act to this situation. University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck points out that under the law, the acting secretary of DHS should be Claire Grandy, the current undersecretary for management. If Trump is bent on having McAleenan serve, he’d first have to first fire Grandy.
Trump seems to be taking the law as less binding requirement to be followed than pesky regulation to be ignored.
Even setting the legal succession issues aside, there’s no reason to think that Trump will be appointing a new DHS secretary any time soon. After all, more than three months after Jim Mattis resigned, Patrick Shanahan is still the acting defense secretary. And he’s just one of the many acting secretaries with whom Trump has avoided the constitutional requirement for confirmation. That includes his new leads at Interior, the Office of Management and Budget, and the new U.N. ambassador.
In the case of the Justice Department, Trump pulled a similar stunt, making unqualified scam artist Matthew Whitaker his acting attorney general. When Trump finally got around to nominating William Barr, the nominee looked so good by comparison that lawmakers had little choice but to hurry and confirm him, lest a sleazy hot tub salesmen remain in that key post.
Trump is far from the first president to stretch the limits of his powers, but (as the Examiner often said of former President Barack Obama) he stands on the shoulders of giants and is therefore taller than any of them. These questionable successions in his administration show further contempt for Congress, which has already weakened itself by wrongly abdicating its rightful powers on trade, border security, and the continuing war in Yemen, among other things.
Republicans need to wake up, because this is all wrong. If they can’t act out of principle, then they should at least realize that the next president to abuse power in these ways way may not be on their team.