DOJ’s dangerous argument: International treaty can trump Constitution

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The Justice Department contends that international treaties give the federal government powers normally curtailed by the Constitution — a position U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz regards as dangerous.

The agency believes that federal law somehow allows the government to prosecute criminal cases that would normally be tried in state courts, and Cruz believes that’s a dangerous assertion, the Washington Examiner reported.

“The Constitution created a limited federal government with only specific enumerated powers,” Cruz told the Examiner. “The Supreme Court should not interpret the treaty power in a manner that undermines this bedrock protection of individual liberty.”

According to the Examiner:

The underlying case, Bond v. United States, involves a woman charged with violating the international ban on chemical weapons because she used toxic chemicals to harass a former friend who had an affair with her husband.

Under the Constitution, such an offense would be handled at the state level. In Bond’s case, the federal government prosecuted her under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act.

That law implements the Chemical Weapons Convention, the international treaty Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is accused of violating in that country’s vicious civil war.

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation “Preserving the Constitution” series Wednesaday, Cruz said the Department of Justice’s position in the Bond case is an abuse of federal power, infringes national sovereignty and “could be used as a backdoor way to undermine” individual rights, including the Second Amendment right to bear arms. After the speech, he tweeted:

“The problem here is precisely that Congress, rather than implementing the treaty consistent with our constitutional system of federalism, enacted a statute that, if construed to apply to petitioner’s conduct, would violate basic structural guarantees and exceed Congress’s enumerated powers,” Bond’s lawyers told the Examiner.

Carrie Severino, the chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, said the Bond case could grant the federal government many other powers the drafters of the Constitution never intended.

“If the administration is right, the treaty power could become a backdoor way for the federal government to do everything from abolishing the death penalty nationwide, to outlawing homeschooling, to dramatically curtailing the states’ rights to regulate abortion,” she told the Washington Examiner.

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