(CNSNews.com) – At a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) on Tuesday asked if President Barack Obama has the “prosecutorial discretion” not to enforce immigration and marijuana laws, what’s to stop him from deciding not to enforce election laws.
“If the president can fail to enforce immigration laws, can the president likewise fail to enforce election laws?” Gowdy asked Simon Lazarus, senior counsel to the Constitutional Accountability Center, one of several legal experts who testified at the hearing titled, “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.”
“If you can dispense with immigration laws or marijuana laws or mandatory minimums, can you also dispense with election laws?” Gowdy asked Lazarus, who replied, “No.”
“Why not? If he can suspend mandatory minimum and immigration laws, why not election laws?” Gowdy asked.
“Because we live in a government of laws, and the president is bound to obey them and apply them,” Lazarus answered.
“Well he’s not applying the ACA, and he’s not applying immigration laws, and he’s not applying marijuana laws, and he’s not applying mandatory minimums. What’s the difference with election laws?” Gowdy asked.
“We have a disagreement as to whether in fact he is applying those laws. My view is that he is applying those laws,” Lazarus said.
“Professor Turley, what are the limits of prosecutorial discretion, and if the president can suspend immigration laws, marijuana laws, why not election laws?” Gowdy asked Turley, professor at George Washington University Law School.
“I think that some of these areas I can’t imagine to be justified through prosecutorial discretion. It’s not prosecutorial discretion to go into a law and say, an entire category of people will no longer be subject to the law. That’s a legislative decision,” Turley said.
“Prosecutorial discretion is a case-by-case decision that is made by the Department of Justice. When the Department of Justice starts to say we’re going to extend that to whole sections of laws, then they are engaging in a legislative act, not an act of prosecutorial discretion,” Turley added.
“Wherever the line is drawn has got to be drawn somewhere from here. It can’t include categorical rejections of the application of the law to millions of people,” he said.
“The president is outside the line, but it has to go in front of a court, and that court has to grant review, and that’s where we have the most serious constitutional crisis I view in my lifetime, and that is this body is becoming less and less relevant,” Turley said.