Elizabeth Goitein to dive deep into use, misuse of presidential powers

Goitein. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Brennan Center for Justice

Elizabeth Goitein will speak at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater as part of the Chautauqua Lecture Series and the discussion on the theme “The Evolution of the Modern Presidency.” 

Goitein is the senior director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program at New York University, which works to advance effective policies that respect the Constitution and the law.

During her lecture, Goitein will be tackling the design and effectiveness of checks and balances among the three government branches regarding presidential emergency powers, and dive into the details of how the presidency functions. Goitein, who is recognized as an expert on presidential emergency powers, government surveillance, and government secrecy, knows just what consequences the abuse of these powers can have. 

“An emergency declaration unlocks powers contained in more than 130 statutory provisions, and some of these carry enormous potential for abuse,” Goitein testified May 22 during a congressional hearing on the National Emergencies Act, according to the nonprofit outlet States Newsroom.

Chautauqua Institution’s Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education Jordan Steves said Goitein will be discussing the history and current use and misuse of presidential emergency powers. Goitein will be making recommendations, based on her knowledge and studies, on what the American public needs to be thinking about and what needs to be put in action by Congress to reel those powers back in, said Steves.

“These powers endow the president, whoever that is, regardless of party, with a level of power that (Goitein) believes if we were familiar with how the presidential emergency powers could be used, if someone wanted to, with no checks and balances against it she believes we would not be comfortable,” said Steves.

During that hearing on May 22, Goitein discussed the very real possibility of the president having control over the U.S.-based internet traffic. 

“Other laws allow the president to freeze Americans’ assets without any judicial process, to control domestic transportation and even to suspend the prohibition on government testing of chemical and biological agents on unwitting human subjects,” Goitein said.

She also testified that Donald Trump “opened the door to abusing statutory emergency powers when he declared a national emergency to secure funding for the border wall after Congress had refused to provide that funding.” 

Goitein also added that President Joe Biden “nudged that door open a little bit more when he relied on emergency powers to forgive student debt,” and shared her concern about the Insurrection Act, which exists outside of the National Emergencies Act.

“The Insurrection Act is a law that allows the president to deploy federal military troops to quell civil unrest or to execute the law in crisis,” she said. “It gives the president extremely broad and judicially unreviewable discretion to deploy troops in ways that could certainly be abused.”

Tags : Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security ProgramElizabeth Goiteinmorning lectureMorning Lecture PreviewNew York UniversityStates NewsroomThe Evolution of the Modern Presidency.

The author Sabine Obermoller