“But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain - that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it.”

― Lysander Spooner, “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority,” 1870 

Donald Trump has been accused of many crimes over the years but now has finally been charged under the Espionage Act.  

“We have one set of laws in this country,” special counsel Jack Smith said last week after Trump’s indictment was unsealed. “They apply to everyone.” 

The unpredictability of this upcoming court battle mirrors the rollercoaster nature of Trump’s entire career. But the intriguing question underlying this high-stakes legal maneuvering is what Trump’s original sin was in the eyes of the ruling elite, who seemed to hate and suspect him before he was even sworn into office. 

Did Trump illegally start new wars abroad without congressional authorization? Did he order the mass surveillance of the American people in contravention of their Fourth Amendment rights? Did he lock people up in internment camps, confiscate people’s gold, devalue the people’s money, suspend habeas corpus, kill American citizens abroad, order prisoners of war to be tortured, or use the power of his office to solicit bribes for his own enrichment?  

No, Donald Trump did something much worse. He committed a thought crime when he believed — and inspired millions of Americans to believe — that, as the duly-elected president, he was actually in charge of the executive branch. 

Days after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey in 2017, the former director of National Intelligence and “unwitting” voyeur into Americans’ private lives, James Clapper, had this to say: “The founding fathers in their genius created a system of co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances, and I feel as though that is under assault and is eroding.” 

Despite Clapper’s absurd worry and woe, the FBI was never and is not a co-equal branch of government able to “check and balance” the president. There is no constitutional authorization for the FBI, NSA, CIA, DOJ, or any other executive agency independent of the presidency. 

Yet, Clapper isn’t just making this idea up out of whole cloth. The authorization to act independently has been given to these agencies all the same. Some other “set of laws” seems to be trumping the plain language of the U.S. Constitution. 

Indeed, the executive branch’s independence from its own chief executive in the Oval Office is merely a modern establishment tradition codified under the 1946 Administrative Procedures Act, a law that many regard as the new “constitution” for the U.S. administrative state.

Though it possibly started as a well-intentioned measure, this notion of an independent administrative state seems to have failed in its own purported goal to protect expertise and science from the corrupting nature of power. Furthermore, this tradition of an independent administrative state has undermined the U.S. Constitution by giving the false appearance of checks on the elected president even as the unelected executive branch agencies assume more and more power and authority over the people.  

The establishment likely wanted it this way — to give the appearance of propriety and fealty to the U.S. Constitution while conning the American people out of their liberties behind the scenes, all in the name of national security and the people’s well-being. Then Trump got elected and started giving the game away. Apparently, all it takes is one ambitious fool to upset the unofficial rule of law and send the established political class into meltdown mode.  

“Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Chuck Schumer said of Trump’s challenge to the intelligence agencies early in 2017. 

Indeed, they do. 

If Congress and the courts continue to grant immense powers to executive agencies to carry out their wars abroad and social engineering at home independent of the elected U.S. President, we will soon discover (if we haven’t already) that the unelected serving in the administrative state are far from angels. We will soon discover (if we haven’t already) that a government with too many laws becomes a government of men’s selective whims. 

If Donald Trump did in fact violate the Espionage Act, then let the government prove it in court and let the people have their say about it in 2024. Until then, millions of Americans will not forget the original sin of Trump was upholding the belief that the Constitution means exactly what it says.

Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email newsandviews931@gmail.com.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com

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