In a unanimous ruling issued Thursday, the Supreme Court found that President Obama had violated the Constitution when he used a tactic known as a “recess appointment” to fill empty positions on the National Labor Relations Board.
The direct effect of the ruling is to invalidate the decisions in which the recess-appointed board members participated and to limit the president’s power to make such appointments in the future. But the more noticeable short-term impact will be on the morale of Tea Party supporters and other hard-right Republicans who have spent years decrying the “lawlessness” of the Obama administration. That’s because the ruling is pretty clear: The president’s appointments were illegal.
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Of course, when people who believe President Obama is a serial lawbreaker start listing his alleged crimes – and make no mistake, there are lists, and lots of them – what he does with NLRB appointees rarely makes the top ten.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) earlier this year published a list of 76 of the president’s alleged abuses of power. The popular right-wing website RedState.com has published its own, running to 140 items. The lesser-known Capitalism Institute offers a downloadable list of 500+.
As one might expect, the lists vary in quality. Cruz takes a stab at respectability, quoting the French philosopher Montesquieu: “There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates.” Others read like the sort of thing you’d find written in tiny handwriting on a flyer taped to the side of a mailbox.
In any case, if the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, as seems likely, emboldens those who believe Obama is a criminal, here are 9 of the issues they are most likely to raise in the weeks and months to come.
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Obama’s Top 9 Alleged High Crimes and Misdemeanors
1) He changed the Affordable Care Act
Mentioning the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, to the president’s opponents is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. But once the pawing and snorting stops, the fact remains that the administration changed multiple deadlines and requirements without the assent of Congress. Whether it was legitimate executive discretion or tyrannical executive overreach will, if conservatives have their way, be decided in court one day.
2) He intervened militarily in Libya without Congressional authorization
Let’s face it: Congress hasn’t really owned up to its responsibilities under the War Powers Act for a generation or more. But the power to declare war becomes really important to the president’s opponents when there’s an opportunity to challenge him, and hard right opponents of the administration can make at least a credible case that the president committed U.S. forces to Libya without authorization.
3) Operation Choke Point
Nobody loves payday lenders – the folks who make extortionate loans to poor people with the aim of trapping them in a cycle of ever-increasing debt – but when the Obama administration goes after them, as it did with Operation Choke Point, the borderline loan sharks were suddenly elevated to the status of respectable businessmen by the president’s fiercest critics. The trouble for Obama is that, while they may be appalling, most payday lenders aren’t actually breaking the law, and marshaling the resources of the Justice Department to stifle their activity – while morally defensible – might not stand up in a court of law.
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4) DREAM Act
Despite his best efforts, the president was never able to persuade Congress to pass a law that would allow illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country and have a path to citizenship. But in 2012, the administration announced that it would, as a matter of policy, stop deporting illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors.
5) Assassination of American citizens
The administration has admitted that at least four American citizens have been targeted and killed by unmanned aerial drones overseas. The administration claims that all four were actively involved in terrorist groups opposed to the United States. But it’s undeniable that a Hellfire missile doesn’t allow even the least bit of due process.
6) Bowe Bergdhal
Obama pretty clearly allowed five Taliban prisoners to be transferred out of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in exchange for captured Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl without first informing Congress, which he was statutorily required to do.
7) IRS Targeting Scandal
The involvement of the White House, much less the president himself, has never been established in the controversy over the Internal Revenue Service giving conservative applicants for non-profit status extra scrutiny. But that has not stopped the president’s detractors from seeking evidence of a cover-up that they believe extends to the White House.
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8) NSA Abuse
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have attacked Obama for prolonging and expanding the National Security Agency’s ability to target U.S. citizens for electronic surveillance. Pinning the whole program on Obama is a stretch, and many of his opponents were strangely silent on the issue during the Bush administration, but there’s little doubt that the administration actively sought increased ability to spy on U.S. citizens without Congressional authorization.
Ah, Benghazi. The GOP has spent much of the last two years trying to turn the 2012 attacks on a U.S. compound in Libya into a combination of Watergate and Dien Bien Phu. Investigations have delivered a lot of heat but little light. Nevertheless, it has not stopped Congressional Republicans from claiming, with great conviction that the president and his administration lied to when they claimed the attack was caused by an anti-Islamic video.
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