Former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III declared in an exclusive Newsmax TV interview that President Barack Obama could easily be impeached if he bypassed Congress and enacted gun-control legislation by executive order.
Meese's comments came on the same day President Obama told the White House press corps at the last news conference of his first term that he was reviewing actions, including issuing executive orders, where he could take action without congressional approval to confront gun violence in the nation. Obama will present his plan Wednesday morning, Bloomberg News reported.
The options include stronger background checks, a meaningful ban on assault weapons, and limits on high-capacity ammunition magazines, Obama said, conceding that was unsure how such steps could pass Congress.
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“I’m confident there are some steps we can take that don’t require legislation and that are within my authority as president,” Obama said.
“It would not be legal. It would not be constitutional,” Meese, who served under President Ronald Reagan, tells Newsmax. “And, indeed, if he tried to override the Second Amendment in any way, I believe it would be an impeachable offense.”
Meese, 81, is the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation and is chairman of its Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. A close Reagan adviser, he also served on the National Security Council.
The idea of embracing tougher gun laws has brought fierce resistance from the National Rifle Association and other gun-control advocates. They contended that their meeting last week with Vice President Joseph Biden’s gun-violence task force amounted to a strategy session on how to thwart the Second Amendment.
“It should be remembered that the president cannot by executive order do things that affects the public at large unless there is some congressional basis for it,” Meese tells Newsmax. “In other words, some Congressional authority he has been given.
“An executive order without specific congressional authority can only apply to those portions of the government that are under his control — in their words, the executive branch. Now there are some things he can probably do in regard to the actions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or some other governmental agency in its operations.
“But to impose burdens or regulations that affect society generally, he would have to have Congressional authorization,” he said.
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And should President Obama move unilaterally on the guns issue, “Then, it would be up to the Congress to take action, such as looking in to it to see if, in fact, he has really tried to override the Constitution itself,” Meese said. “In which case, it would be up to them to determine what action they should take — and perhaps even to the point of impeachment.”
House Republicans also must take a strong role in the impending talks to raise the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt limit.
“It’s important that action be taken to curb the unusual and unprecedented degree of spending, particularly spending that has no revenue to offset it — and is merely driving up our deficit, and in turn the national debt,” Meese said. “Under this president, we have had an unprecedented amount of excess spending — more deficit spending than any president tin history. As a matter of a fact, it’s more than the first 41 presidents all put together.
“Something has to be done, and probably the right thing to do would be to put together a package that would increase the debt ceiling only as much as there are spending cuts to offset it. To just let the president go ahead and raise the debt ceiling so he can continue this deficit spending is kind of like giving your kid a credit card without any limitations whatsoever.”
Obama’s rhetoric, as far as Meese is concerned, suggests great indifference toward the entire debt spending issue.
“If he were serious, he would have a plan to try to at least put us on a path to reduce the deficit over a period of time — so that even if it took a number of years, we would ultimately get the budget back into balance.
“But to just have unrestrained spending, such as he is advocating, and just borrowing the money to support this unrestrained spending, is certainly the kind of a folly we’ve been involved in in the last four years — and this would only make it much worse,” Meese said.
Looking to next week’s testimony by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Sept. 11 attacks at the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, Meese said that a special prosecutor was not necessary.
“It appears that this civil episode was the result of poor leadership, poor planning, and poor response. It is up to the committee, though, to find out what happened and to find out who is responsible — because it was, certainly, it appears at least, at some level to be a dereliction of duty or, at that very least, poor judgment.”
But the former Attorney General is troubled by Obama’s nomination of Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry to succeed Clinton as the nation’s top diplomat.
“Here is a man who gave aid and comfort to the enemy during the Vietnam War. I think it’s a very poor nomination,” Meese said. Kerry commanded a Navy Swift Boat in an abbreviated four-month tour of South Vietnam during the war.
“I think also that what he has done over his career has not indicated any ability really to guide a department, which is our most important element of foreign policy, so I have serious concerns about that particular appointment.”
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He added that Kerry, along with the other Obama nominees for his national security team — former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for Defense Secretary and John Brennan for director of the Central Intelligence Agency — “ought to be seriously questioned by the appropriate committees, because there’s no more important element of our entire government than our national security policy. These are the three key positions in terms of providing that leadership.
“Up to date, we have had some very good people in those positions, but we’ve had a serious deficiency in terms of the president’s overall foreign policy, particularly in regard to Israel,” Meese added. “This is an opportunity to the Congress, particularly the Senate, to exercise its responsibilities and to look at the overall national security policies of this president.
And on that basis, Meese added, “find out whether his overall policies and whether these particular leaders are qualified to provide that kind of service to the country in the future.”
In his wide-ranging interview with Newsmax, Meese:
- Debunked the notion of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts being a “maverick” for switching his vote to side with the court’s liberal wing and uphold Obamacare last June. “I wouldn’t call him a maverick based upon one particular instance. I was surprised, certainly, but I would prefer to think of this as an aberration — because, overall, in most of the cases in which he’s decided, or of which has been a principal author of a decision, he’s done very well. That’s why I was so surprised to see this departure from sound decision-making in the Obamacare case.”
- Described many of Obama’s federal judicial picks overall as not “unusually distinguished. But in terms of the Supreme Court appointments, I would say they’re more liberal ideologues than they are distinguished jurists.”
- Praised Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio’s efforts to craft comprehensive immigration legislation — “I have a lot of confidence in Senator Rubio generally” — but added that the issue is so complex that “it may be better to put three or four, or perhaps even more, different proposals before the Congress, rather than to have them in one sweeping bill that would cover so much that it would be very hard for any particular member of Congress to vote for all of the proposals.”
- Predicted that, despite the beating the Republicans took in the November election, the GOP would return strong. “The party has always rebounded from situations like this. The one mistake they could make is if they tried to be ‘Democrats-lite’ and try to mimic the Democrats. I don’t think that’s either good government or good politics, because I don’t think that’s what the public wants.”
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