Remember when those pesky other branches of government wouldn’t bow down to Obama’s whims, and the president famously bragged about going it alone? Now Obama’s out and it will soon be Donald Trump wielding his pen and phone.
As Barack Obama bids farewell to his presidency this week, keep in mind these five scary powers that President Trump will inherit from him.
1. War Without Congress
During the Libya intervention, Obama decided that he didn’t need Congress to approve massive bombing campaigns and regime change.
Obama has done legal gymnastics to justify using the same authorizations that George W. Bush got to fight al Qaeda and the Taliban to send our armed forces to places like West Africa, Somalia, Yemen, and Syria —not to mention staying in Pakistan and Afghanistan and going back to Iraq—all without Congress.
So if the Mexicans won’t pay for his wall, President Trump could just as well decide to bomb them.
2. Kill Lists
Obama made up his own rules on targeted killings, denying that courts could review his “kill list” and only paying lip service to drone guidelines when he thought Mitt Romney might win in 2012. That never actually happened, and even in his last months in office, Obama has continued to expand the reach of our flying robots and special operations forces.
So President Trump can now vaporize any person he puts on his kill list, even American citizens, even outside of acknowledged battlefields, even if civilians die—all without due process.
3. Access to All of Your Information
He supports weakening encryption, general warrants that cover millions of people, and a host of powers with the ultimate goal of giving spooks what the NSA has called “Total Information Awareness”—access to your every word, move, purchase, and relationship, all without your knowledge.
Orwell would have been impressed, and Trump certainly will be.
4. Prosecuting Whistleblowers and Journalists
The leader of the self-anointed “most transparent administration” in history has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all other presidents in history, put together. His administration exploded the number of classified documents and fought the ACLU and New York Times in court to keep its legal interpretations secret.
Oh, and Obama’s Justice Department spied on journalists and investigated them as co-conspirators.
Based on what Trump thinks of the media, reporters should take care not to violate any secret laws going forward, especially in secret drone zones.
5. Screwing Immigrants
Many undocumented immigrants trusted Obama with their personal information in exchange for his promise not to deport them. That may have been a huge mistake. First off, he’s deported more people than any president in history, so that should have been a red flag.
After Congress didn’t act on immigration, Obama turned to his pen and phone again. But he overreached, and his executive order giving deportation relief was ruled unconstitutional. So now he’ll be gone, but those immigrants will still be listed in a Department of Homeland Security database.
So the next time you find yourself applauding the President for doing a gleeful end-run around the Constitution and separation of powers, pause and ask yourself: What will happen when it’s President Kanye West?
And as the 44th president bids us farewell, let us all take a moment to say #ThanksObama.
Written and Produced by Justin Monticello. Additional graphics by Josh Swain. Music by Topher Mohr and Alex Elena.