A short history of the Imperial Presidency (with examples)

  • The Sedition Act of 1798 was selectively enforced by the Adams administration against newspaper writers who supported Thomas Jefferson, his challenger in the 1800 election.

  • The very first landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in 1803, Marbury v. Madison, established the power of the judiciary by resolving a separation-of-powers dispute between the president and Congress.

  • President Andrew Jackson openly defied a Supreme Court ruling—the first, last, and only time that any U.S. president has done so—in Worcester v. Georgia in 1832.

  • President Abraham Lincoln took on unprecedented wartime powers and violated multiple civil liberties on a large scale during the American Civil War, including due process rights for U.S. citizens.

  • During the first Red Scare following World War I, President Woodrow Wilson suppressed free speech, deported immigrants based on their political beliefs and ordered massive unconstitutional raids. His policies were so draconian that they inspired protesters to form the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920.

  • During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order calling for the forced internment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans, as well as forced surveillance, ID cards and occasional relocation for immigrants from other perceived hostile nations.

  • President Richard Nixon openly used executive branch law enforcement agencies to attack his political opponents and, in the case of Watergate, to actively cover up his supporters' criminal activities.

  • Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all actively pursued expanded presidential powers. One particularly stunning example was President Clinton's claim that sitting presidents are immune from lawsuits, a position the Supreme Court rejected in Clinton v. Jones in 1997.

  • During the military intervention in Libya 2011, Obama justified bombing targets in Libya without Congressional approval stating that limited actions of this kind were not restricted by the War Powers Act. The New York Times called ‘legal acrobatics’,

  • 2020 Trump Administration diverted $3.8 Billion In Pentagon funding to build the border wall