Delegation Memorandum Follow-up

So far, I have not seen or heard anything in the news about the delegation memorandum. After giving a little more thought to it myself and wondering if the timing of its issuance – immediately after the return of the Secretary of State from Korea & China – might be more than a coincidence, I decided to do more digging.

First I tried to find equivalent delegations by President Obama and found some similar ones on other issues, but none with regard to nuclear proliferation.

Then I decided to look again at the section of the law referred to in the memorandum. This time I found on a different government website, the full text of the law and apparently I did not find the correct part yesterday. I think what I saw and quoted was just the title for that section. Today I found the full text of that section. While it does refer to nuclear proliferation, the full text is just a requirement for the president to produce a report on the updated plan by 90 days after the law was enacted.

I think now it is just a routine delegation to the Secretary of State what is required of the president – to produce that update report. I still find it interesting that it delegates to State what I might have thought would be Defense, but other than that, I can find no other sinister goings on here.

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Delegation of Presidential Authority

This evening on a whim I decided to check to see if any new presidential actions were taken today and I was a little surprised to find a new memorandum. It is so brief, I am going to quote it in its entirety here.

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE

SUBJECT:         Delegation of Authority Under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, I hereby order as follows:

I hereby delegate to the Secretary of State the functions and authorities vested in the President by section 3132 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114-328) (the “Act”).

Any reference in this memorandum to the Act shall be deemed to be a reference to any future Act that is the same or substantially the same as such provision.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

DONALD J. TRUMP

After looking up section 3132 of the National Defense Authorization Act, I found it refers to nuclear proliferation, quoted below.

Sec. 3132. Updated plan for verification and monitoring of proliferation of nuclear weapons and fissile material.

I don’t know what to make of this action. It appears to be a routine delegation of the monitoring process to the Secretary of State. If so, why not the Secretary of Defense?

I am hoping tomorrow there will be media coverage of this memorandum and maybe some sort of explanation of it to see if my reading is accurate.

Official Memorandum Title: Presidential Memorandum on the Delegation of Authority Under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017

Posted March 20,2017.

National Poison Prevention Week

Congress in a joint resolution dated September 26, 1961 authorized then president Kennedy to establish the third week in March each year as National Poison Prevention Week.

Official Title: President Donald J. Trump Proclaims March 19 through March 25, 2017, as National Poison Prevention Week

Proclamation dated March 17, 2017 posted March 20.

Budget Proposal

Slipping under my radar a bit, I did not notice a new memorandum posted a couple of days ago until today. The actual content of the proposed budget sent to Congress received ample news coverage, but I do not recall seeing or hearing anything about a presidential memorandum on the budget.

It is a letter to the Speaker of the House accompanying his budget proposal. It is basic in that is summarizes and attempts to justify increases in spending on military and security. The real substance is in the budget proposal itself.

Memorandum Title: Text of a Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives

Posted March 16, 2017.

Guessed Wrong

A Federal judge in Hawaii has proven me wrong.

In my review of the updated immigration executive order (aka “travel ban”), I guessed the revised order would pass legal muster. Last night (March 15, 2017) Judge Derrick K. Watson, of the Federal District Court in Honolulu, blocked implementation of two key parts (Sections 2 and 6) of the order nation wide. Subsequently, another judge (Judge Theodore D. Chuang, of the Maryland District) issued a similar ruling.

How could I be so wrong? The simple (desperately trying not to be defensive) answer is I am not a lawyer and it is now even more clear I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to legal issues. Somehow, I don’t think that will keep me from expressing my own opinions in the future, however. [grin]

[Ed. note: A savvy reader might take the previous paragraph as a less than subtle “Reader Beware” warning.]

Following this case I have learned an important and fascinating lesson about the law and how it is interpreted. Previously, I did not fully understand how judges could use more than the official text of an executive order (or law for that matter) to determine whether or not it is constitutional. Obviously, Judge Watson used many other comments, documents, etc. by the president and his surrogates to conclude the primary purpose of the order was to discriminate against a particular religion. In hindsight, I can now see that I completely missed this aspect of the rulings on the original “travel ban” order. This time around, the concept of including other documents in determining intent is much more obvious.

It is actually very good to know that extended context matters with respect to interpreting the law.

Since both of the judges issued temporary restraining orders not final orders, the legal battles over the “travel band” executive order are far from over. I’ll be following them every step of the way.

For anyone interested in the details, here is the full text of the Watson ruling as published by the New York Times. Fair warning: it is lengthy.

Dismantling the Executive Branch

Yesterday the president signed another executive order – this one about “Reorganizing the Executive Branch”. Just reading the order itself, without paying attention to context and influences on the president, one could easily conclude it is a good, prudent effort to streamline government operations. I will freely admit there is likely plenty of waste and redundancy in the executive branch that could be cleaned up, but I cannot ignore the context here.

A fairly brief order, it directs the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to gather ideas (for 180 days) and propose a reorganization plan (by another 180 days) to give to the president. It allows for the potential of drafting appropriate new legislation to accomplish the tasks proposed.

The order appears to me to be a very thinly disguised directive to propose an ambitious plan to effectively dismantle much of the Executive Branch of the federal government. I come to that conclusion not only from the language in the order itself, but also knowing the chief advisors – Bannon and Miller in particular – have the goal of destroying the federal government. Additional evidence for my conclusion can be found in the appointments to various cabinet positions. Many of them have publicly called for elimination or radically reducing the effectiveness of the very departments they are now charged with leading. I won’t go into detail here on these appointments, but this order clearly gives them the room to do just what they want.

Quoting from the order:

(e) In developing the proposed plan described in subsection (c) of this section, the Director shall consult with the head of each agency and, consistent with applicable law, with persons or entities outside the Federal Government with relevant expertise in organizational structure and management.

Sounds reasonable. But no mention of convening meetings that include more than one agency head (when one of the stated goals is to consolidate “duplicate” activities in different agencies) is a major red flag. And, again one has to read between the lines, but consulting with people outside the government with “expertise in organizational structure and management” very probably means POTUS 45’s hand picked cronies. I would not be surprised if ALEC* has a big hand in this as well.

If the Director of the OMB delivers the plan on the timeline stated, in about a year we will know how much of the executive branch of the federal government is intended to be left standing.

* American Legislative Exchange Council here exposed for what they are.

Official title of the order: Presidential Executive Order on a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch

Executive order posted March 13, 2017.

Irony In Action

I could not help but laugh when I saw the proclamation posted later in the day March 6. It proclaims March 5 through March 11, 2017 National Consumer Protection Week. This administration, especially obvious through cabinet appointments, is so far from being interested in protecting consumers and yet, this proclamation would have us believe otherwise. It is a little hard to take this seriously when it is posted late in the day after the week it designates began. I wonder if anyone in this administration saw the irony.

I’ve often wondered just how much difference presidential or congressional proclamations really make. I’m sure they are important to the groups promoting them, but do they have any significant impact on the general population?

President Donald J. Trump Proclaims March 5 through March 11, 2017, as National Consumer Protection Week

Proclamation posted March 6, 2017.