News & Politics

Expert: Trump can activate an ‘entire parallel legal regime’ — which includes an ‘internet kill switch’

One expert says Trump has the power to declare martial law and even shut down portions of the internet.

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Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice and author of a new article on presidential emergency powers published in The Atlantic, told MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Thursday that there is little to no Congressional oversight over those powers, which could allow President Trump to declare martial law and even shut down portions of the internet.

“There is a vast set of laws, an entire parallel legal regime, that becomes available to the president when he declares an emergency,” Goitein said, adding that such a declaration is entirely up to the president. “Some of these laws and the powers they give the president are perfectly sensible, but some of them are more like the stuff of authoritarian regimes. We’re talking about powers to shut down wire communications, to freeze Americans’ bank accounts, to deploy the military to act as a domestic police force and more. This is some very frightening stuff.”

Goitein added that “there are very, very few constraints” on Trump’s ability to declare a national emergency, and all it takes is his signature to renew it. There is little to no oversight, she contended.

“This law has been in place for more than 40 years and Congress has never met to consider a vote, she said. “Congress has never voted on ending a state of emergency, so the oversight that is supposed to be there has really been absent.”After co-host Willie Geist noted some of the president’s more extreme powers -including “an internet kill switch by which the president could assume control of U.S. internet traffic” and “boots on Main Street in the form of troops”- Goitein said she worried that no one would be willing to stand up to the president. “One of the things we have to worry about in our current political environment is that Congress and the courts might not be willing to step in and act as a check,” she said. “That’s why the system we had that gives the president so much discretion and then sort of crosses its fingers that Congress and the courts will step in if the president goes too far really needs to be rethought by Congress starting now.”

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