By Carlo Versano
In his new book "Our Lost Declaration: America's Fight Against Tyranny from King George to the Deep State," Utah Sen. Mike Lee argues that the U.S. government ー particularly the executive branch and federal agencies like the EPA ー has a history of overreach and abuse of power and needs Congress to be newly empowered to take back lawmaking authority.
When a law is delegated by the executive branch to a federal agency, "the lawmaking power and the law-enforcing power is up to the people who are unelected and unaccountable," Lee said.
But when it comes to the Trump administration, the Republican from Utah is willing to give the chief executive more latitude in what constitutes an abuse of power. In an interview with Cheddar, he brushed off reports that the White House is defying House subpoenas as "nothing new."
"The president can do that, and usually does," Lee said.
While making the rounds to promote his book, Lee has laid out a far harsher response to agency bureaucrats being given power to enforce laws passed by Congress than to documented actions of President Trump to thwart the Mueller investigation.
Lee has told several outlets that he was relieved to find there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian assets, but appeared largely indifferent to the details of Trump's actions to control that investigation.
"The fact [Trump] thought about doing certain things and was later walked off the ledge from that by capable staff members who pointed out it wasn't a good idea is comforting," Lee told "The View."
In point of fact, the Mueller report found that Trump's underlings largely ignored requests by the president they found potentially illegal.
Lee's remarks were a contrast to those of his fellow senator from Utah, Mitt Romney, who said he was "sickened" by the report's findings.
Lee told Cheddar that if there's one prescription to the problem of bureaucratic overreach, it would be the passage of the REINS Act, which would require any major action delegated to an agency by the executive branch to be then passed into law by both houses of Congress.
Lawmaking authority needs to be put in the hands of "the people's branch," Lee said, arguing that the founders entrusted so much power to Congress because its members had to be regularly held accountable to the people. "When you set the law, you determine the direction of the country," he said.
Lee, who recently made headlines for a Senate floor speech in which he mocked the Green New Deal, showed an image of President Reagan riding a dinosaur, and argued that the solution to climate change was to have more children, is not a full-throated supporter of President Trump, and said he remains at odds with him on some issues, most notably trade policy. But Lee said he supports the president's dismantling of regulations and respects him for "doing what he said he would do" on court appointments and even trade.
"Our Lost Declaration" hit bookshelves on Tuesday.