The House v. Trump:Stymied Lawmakers Increasingly Battle in the Courts
Democrats took control of the House this year promising to use legislation and investigations to check President Donald Trump. But facing substantial roadblocks to each, they are increasingly opposing him in a different way: Eight months into their majority, the House is going to court at a tempo never seen before.
Fighting in courtrooms as much as in hearing rooms, the House has already become a party to nine separate lawsuits this year, while also filing briefs for judges in four others. More lawsuits are being drafted, according to a senior aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The fights include efforts to reveal Trump’s hidden financial dealings, force his aides to testify about his attempts to obstruct the Russia investigation, challenge his invocation of emergency powers to spend more taxpayer money on a border wall than Congress approved and defend laws like the Affordable Care Act that his Justice Department abandoned.
While it is routine for the executive branch to be in court, it was once vanishingly rare for Congress, which has typically used its authority to pass laws, appropriate funds and investigate the executive branch, to balance out the president’s power.
Now, as Senate Republicans refuse to take up the bills they pass, Trump administration witnesses refuse to show up for their hearings and the president levels his own highly unusual lawsuits against the House’s oversight requests, two of the three branches of government are regularly facing off before the third, creating a new stress with uncertain consequences for the political system.
“It is unprecedented,” said Charles Tiefer, a former longtime House lawyer who is now a University of Baltimore law professor. “The challenges for the House counsel ebb and flow over time, but this is like nothing else in history.”
The consequences of the specific disputes could be significant. In the short term, they could determine whether House Democrats are able to drag information to light about Trump that could lead to his impeachment or damage his reelection prospects. And potential decisions by the higher courts could clarify the long-ambiguous line between a president’s secrecy power and Congress’s oversight authority — determining whether future presidents can systematically stonewall congressional subpoenas.
But the broader phenomenon is also significant.
As an immediate matter, the surge in litigation is a consequence of Trump’s norm-busting presidency.
文／Charlie Savage and Nicholas Fandos 譯／莊蕙嘉
本文的單字多與「總統制」（presidential system）有關，像是介紹「權力分立」（separation of powers）的制度，美國聯邦政府有三大分支（branch），包括白宮為首的行政（executive）部門、參議院 （The Senate）和眾議院 （The House of Representatives）代表的立法（legislative）部門，以及聯邦最高法院以降的司法（judicial）部門。
監督與制衡（checks and balances）則是三權分立的核心概念。此與「議會內閣制」（parliamentary system）中，國會多數黨掌握執政權，行政立法一體的情形不同。
國會的監督權（oversight authority）與總統的機密特權（secrecy power），何者為重？兩方都在等司法機關給答案。Authority指伴隨正式職位而來的權力，就是「職權」。Oversight在本文指「監督」，但也指「疏忽失察」。Appropriate既是撥款的撥用，也指占用、擅用，甚至是後現代藝術的手法「挪用」（postmodern appropriation）。意指為何，須從上下文判斷。