John Yoo was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department under George W. Bush, and he became famous — or infamous — for, in his words, “advising that President George W could take vigorous, perhaps extreme, measures to protect the nation after the Sept. 11 attacks, including invading Afghanistan, opening the Guantánamo detention center and conducting military trials and enhanced interrogation of terrorist leaders.” In other words, torture such as waterboarding and other such measures were fine with him; they fell well within the president’s power to protect the country.
So you’d think he’d be on board with Trump’s rampages against immigration and his sweeping use of the executive orders.
Guess again. Via his op-ed in the New York Times:
But even I have grave concerns about Mr. Trump’s uses of presidential power.
During the campaign, Mr. Trump gave little sign that he understood the constitutional roles of the three branches, as when he promised to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would investigate Hillary Clinton. (Judge Neil M. Gorsuch will not see this as part of his job description.) In his Inaugural Address, Mr. Trump did not acknowledge that his highest responsibility, as demanded by his oath of office, is to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” Instead, he declared his duty to represent the wishes of the people and end “American carnage,” seemingly without any constitutional restraint.
A successful president need not have a degree in constitutional law. But he should understand the Constitution’s grant of executive power. He should share Hamilton’s vision of an energetic president leading the executive branch in a unified direction, rather than viewing the government as the enemy. He should realize that the Constitution channels the president toward protecting the nation from foreign threats, while cooperating with Congress on matters at home.
Otherwise, our new president will spend his days overreacting to the latest events, dissipating his political capital and haphazardly wasting the executive’s powers.
When you’ve lost the chief proponent president’s use of whatever means possible, including torture, you’ve got a problem.