President Barack Obama is "going beyond his powers" in seeking to negotiate a reduction in nuclear weapons with Russian President Vladimir Putin, former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.
"He's essentially making a treaty unilaterally without going through the constitutional process of the treaty, which a president can sign, but it must be ratified then by the Senate in order to be a part of the supreme law of the land," Meese tells Newsmax. "I have serious questions about this, about both his authority and about the effect of what this might be."
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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.
In Berlin on Wednesday, Obama proposed that the United States and Russia cut the number strategic warheads that each nation still maintained by up to a third — bringing them under the 1,550 allowed in the treaty the countries signed in Obama’s his first term. Both the United States and Russia would be left with slightly more than 1,000 weapons.
The speech came a day after Obama and Putin met at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland and disagreed publicly over Syria. Moscow has since given a chilly response to Obama’s foray, saying that it could "not take such proposals seriously" while Washington was increasing its own anti-missile defenses.
Obama spoke near the site where President John F. Kennedy said in 1963 that "Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner)" and where President Ronald Reagan challenged Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 to "tear down this wall."
Only about 5,000 people, all invited guests, attended the Obama speech, compared with 450,000 for Kennedy's and about 45,000 for the Reagan event.
Meese tells Newsmax that the former GOP president would have approached the weapons issue with Russia differently.
"He recognized that there are dangers to the United States — and I don't believe he would have gone along with this kind of an approach," he says of Reagan. "He believed that our best chance of having peace in the world and avoiding a nuclear war was to have strength.
"In terms of reducing nuclear weapons, he obviously wanted to do that, but he wanted to reduce them by making them obsolete through the creation of an effective anti-ballistic missile program, which was known then as the Strategic Defense Initiative."
Meese says that, even though the Obama administration attributes the National Security Agency’s PRISM program with foiling 50 terrorist attacks since it began collecting the information on the telephone calls and Internet communications of millions of Americans, the effort needs more congressional scrutiny.
"I would not be satisfied until Congress has a total, thorough evaluation — and then, on a bipartisan basis, had made the assurance to the American people of several things: that it is necessary for our national security; that it not do anything that is not permitted by law and by the search warrant that is provided under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
"And finally, that necessary precautions have been taken to make sure that they only do what is proper and that they do not invade the privacy of American citizens by actually looking into the content of telephone conversations," Meese adds. "There are a lot of things that need to happen."
Likewise with the Federal Bureau of Investigation's use of drones to conduct surveillance on American soil. FBI Director Robert Muller told Congress on Wednesday that drones were used "very seldom" for such purposes.
"There have been a number of decisions by the Supreme Court on this subject, and I would be interested in knowing more," Meese tells Newsmax. "It would appear that if it is utilizing an inquiry or intrusive surveillance into a person's home or into a person's property, then you would need a specific search warrant.
"We need to know more about it — and it looks like it's very close to the line on what is proper and what is not proper under the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment."
In his wide-ranging exclusive interview with Newsmax, Meese also:
- Acknowledged that the United States did not succeed in securing the nation’s borders when it enacted sweeping immigration reform in 1986. "Congress refused to follow up on the secure border portion of it and, as a result, what was then estimated to be three million illegal aliens turned out, over a period of time, to be some 11 million or more today."
- Said that a special prosecutor might be needed to address the recent scandals plaguing the Obama administration but after Congress has completed its hearings and investigations. "It would be far better to continue the hearings and making sure that the public understands what this administration is doing in these scandals."
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