Lawrence Lessig on how Congress should behave when the president breaks the law

Lessig compares the current constitutional crisis -- a lawless, reckless president; law enforcement officers flouting federal court orders -- with previous crises, such as the impeachment of Nixon, and says the major difference between then and now: then, Congress had a bipartisan consensus that "they were engaged in the most serious job a member of Congress could have — because they knew that in a critical sense, the very stability of the Republic depended on them behaving as adults."



But today's Congress "looks not like adults addressing a crisis with calm and confidence; it looks like a circus, that can only weaken even further the fabric of our Republic."

During Watergate, Lessig's uncle, Richard Cates, was hired as counsel to the House Committee on Impeachment, to assemble the case against Nixon and put it to Congress. Today's Congress needs its own Cates, "to avoid slipping into civil war."

That won’t happen with hysterics. It won’t happen with violence. It won’t happen by behaving just as badly as Donald Trump is behaving. It will only happen if the opposition is, and seems, better than Trump. That is, if it inspires in all Americans—and especially a large swath of the supporters of Trump—a recognition of the ideals that we all know we are to embrace: the Constitution, the rule of law, and government officials who know their place within that system.

We should learn from the Tea Party, yet be better than the Tea Party. The millions who are doing their duty as citizens to protest the violation of America’s values need to show up at every congressman’s office, and ask, what are you doing? This President is being enabled by the most pathetic weakness of a Republic — and precisely the weakness George Washington warned against—party over country. The fight that citizens must wage now is against that pathology with Congress first. The fight that Congress must wage now is with this out of control executive first. And the fight that the courts will wage, easily and effectively, now is with officers who don’t obey their orders.

Rules for a constitutional crisis [Lawrence Lessig/Medium]

(Image: ABC News)