Press: Who will be the first conservative to take on Trump?

Press: Who will be the first conservative to take on Trump?
© Getty

America’s conservatives are again under attack. Although, this time, the threat’s coming not from the left, but from the right.

American conservatives are not under attack from Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Krystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans 2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Pelosi wants to change law to allow a sitting president to be indicted MORE (D-Mass.), Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezMarkey fundraises ahead of Kennedy primary challenge The Hill's Campaign Report: De Blasio drops out | Warren gains support from black voters | Sanders retools campaign team | Warning signs for Tillis in NC Progressives push for changes to Pelosi drug pricing plan MORE (D-N.Y.), Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroLawmakers run into major speed bumps on spending bills Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — FDA says Juul illegally marketed e-cigarettes | AMA warns against vaping after deaths | Two Planned Parenthood clinics to close in Ohio Overnight Health Care: Watchdog details severe trauma suffered by separated children | Judge approves B CVS-Aetna merger | House Dem Caucus chair backs 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Conn.), or any other leading leftie. Conservatives are under attack from none other than Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJulián Castro: It's time for House Democrats to 'do something' about Trump Warren: Congress is 'complicit' with Trump 'by failing to act' Sanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest MORE himself, who — because he believes, as president, he’s all-powerful and above the law — has declared war on conservatives, Congress, and anybody else who believes in the separation of powers.

ADVERTISEMENT

The only question: Is any conservative willing to put principle above party and stand up to Trump, or will they simply roll over as he shreds the Constitution?

To be fair, Trump’s hardly the first occupant of the Oval Office to assert more power. Every president has tried to expand the powers of the presidency, especially in foreign affairs. George W. Bush did it, after Sept. 11. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKrystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans Sanders campaign announces it contacted over 1 million Iowa voters Iowa Steak Fry to draw record crowds for Democrats MORE extended the Bush doctrine in Libya. It comes with the job: the urge to create what presidential historian Arthur Schlesinger, under Richard Nixon, first dubbed the “imperial presidency.” But Trump has taken his assertion of powers further and into more dangerous ground than any other president.

Unlike what many believe, Trump didn’t wait until Democrats took control of Congress to start his war on Congress. He actually started it on Day One of his presidency. In his first two years, using the same presidential authority he once accused Obama of abusing, he signed executive orders to, among other priorities, repeal ObamaCare, enact a “Muslim ban,” cancel new car fuel efficiency standards, impose new sanctions on North Korea, and force new restrictions on refugees at the border. As of April 2, 2019, Trump had signed 102 executive orders. By contrast, Obama signed a total of only 276 executive orders in eight years, the lowest of any two-term president since Grover Cleveland.

But, of course, Trump had it easy for his first two years, coddled by a Republican House and Congress who abdicated their constitutional responsibilities by simply looking the other way whenever Trump acted unilaterally. Even when he ran right over or right around them, they didn’t care — a decision many Republican members of Congress now regret.

But now that the American people have spoken and a Democratic-controlled House has begun to exercise its constitutional oversight powers, Trump has declared all-out war, refusing to recognize Congress as an equal branch of government.

In response to some 20 probes into various executive departments and agencies, starting with the White House, Trump has given orders to block every one of them: no cooperation, no documents, no witnesses. According to The Washington Post, the Trump administration has failed to respond to at least 79 requests for documents or other information.

ADVERTISEMENT

The result is a classic confrontation between the executive branch and the legislative branch. We are in the middle of a constitutional crisis like this country has not seen since the days of Watergate, with the same issues at stake: Are there any limits to presidential power? Does the Constitution mean anything? Is there, in fact, a true separation of powers? And, above all, are we a democracy or a dictatorship?

The difference is, under Watergate, there were brave Republicans willing to stand up to their president: Bill Cohen (Maine) and Lawrence Hogan (Md.) in the House; Barry Goldwater (Ariz.) and Hugh Scott (Pa.) in the Senate. Today, especially among cowardly Senate Republicans, we’re waiting for the first one with enough guts to stand up against Trump. It looks like it’s going to be a long wait.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”