Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

UW Law Professors Outline The Limits Of Presidential Power

Robb Car
Pool Photo via AP
In this Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump talks with former President Barack Obama on Capitol Hill in Washington, prior to Obama's departure to Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Since the election of President Donald Trump, question after question has emerged about presidential power and the potential checks on those powers. There were so many questions that the University of Washington law school quickly put together a class on the subject last winter.

Kathryn Watts is one of the professors who taught the class. She and her colleague Lisa Manheim have now published The Limits of Presidential Power: A Citizen's Guide to the Law.

Watts and Manheim sat down with KNKX reporter Simone Alicea to discuss what readers can take away from their guide. Here are some highlights from their conversation.

Watts on why learning about law matters:

"The law actually drives so much of what happens in our country and so much of what a politician can do. So in our mind, it's critical that people across the country understand something about the legal framework that politics must operate through because without knowing something about the law, you don't know who in our government to hold responsible for particular actions."

Manheim on why presidential opponents won't find a "silver bullet" in the law:

"The same powers that President Trump has right now are the powers that President Obama had when he was in office and are the powers that the future presidents are going to have. And the flip is also true. So the same legal constraints that are frustrating President Trump right now are those that were frustrating President Obama and again future presidents. If it were the case that there was some sort of 'silver bullet' that people objecting to this president could use to get him out of office, that 'silver bullet' would exist for those who objected to prior presidents and future presidents. And that would be a pretty unstable way of running a government if one could do things like that."

Watts on what readers can draw from the book:

"We hope this book is encouraging or reassuring to people to the extent that they see that there are so many checks that can be used. Having said that, the flip side is if those that have power to exert checks -- whether it's voters or Congress or the media -- if they don't use those checks, if we sort of fall asleep at the wheel, then there is the risk that we have a president that becomes more and more powerful with each presidency that progresses. And that is something to worry about."

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.