White House seeks advice of 'torture memos' author on powers

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President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is relying on an outlier interpretation of a recent Supreme Court decision to assert broad new powers as he prepares to sign a series of executive orders in the coming weeks.

The expansive view of presidential authority has been promoted by John Yoo, a Berkeley Law professor known for writing the so-called “torture memos” that the George W. Bush administration used to justify using “enhanced interrogation” techniques after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Yoo told The Associated Press on Thursday he's had multiple conversations with senior administration officials in which he's made the case that a June Supreme Court ruling that rejected Trump’s effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, opened the door to enormous new presidential power.

“I said, ‘Why not just take the DACA opinion itself and do a search-replace. And every time it says ’DACA' ... replace it with ‘skills-based immigration system,’" Yoo said he told the White House. “This gives President Trump an alternative to create such a program, at least for a few years."

Not long after the conversations, Trump began promising a series of new executive orders on a range of issues.

“The decision by the Supreme Court on DACA allows me to do things on immigration, on health care, on other things that we’ve never done before," Trump said in an interview on Fox News Sunday, predicting "a very exciting two weeks."

The court concluded in its 5-4 decision that the Trump administration did not take the proper steps to end DACA. The program was created by former President Barack Obama and provided legal protections to some 650,000 immigrants brought to the country as children.

Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion castigated the administration for cutting legal corners, finding its conduct “arbitrary and capricious” under a 1946 federal law that guides how agencies develop regulations and policies.