The Obama administration and congressional allies like Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) are seeking to silence government lawyers who point out their mistakes and misinterpretations of the law:
“A month ago, the Law Library of Congress reviewed the removal of Manuel Zelaya from his post as President of Honduras, an act that the Obama administration called a ‘coup’ and demanded reversed for its illegality. To the embarrassment of the White House and State Department, the Congressional body determined that Honduras acted lawfully in removing Zelaya for his crimes against their constitution, although they determined that his exile broke Honduran law. Now John Kerry wants the Law Library to retract its findings, apparently trying to rewrite history to hide the facts of the case.”
Earlier, the Obama administration overruled career justice department lawyers in voting rights and voter intimidation cases, to give a green light to unconstitutional legislation, and protect an Obama poll-watcher and Democratic Party official from being held accountable for wrongdoing. Obama also fired an inspector general for uncovering wrongdoing by a prominent Obama supporter.
Contrary to what Senator Kerry claims, there are many legal commentators who say that Honduras’s removal of ex-president Manuel Zelaya was legal — and thus, not a coup.
The ex-president’s removal was perfectly constitutional, say many lawyers and foreign policy experts, including attorneys Octavio Sanchez, Miguel Estrada, and Dan Miller, former Assistant Secretary of State Kim Holmes, Stanford’s William Ratliff, and The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady.
Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, a lawyer, says that Honduras’s removal of Zelaya from office was legal, although its exiling of him was not.
Honduras removed ex-president Zelaya after he systematically abused his powers: he sought to circumvent constitutional term limits, used mobs to intimidate his critics, threatened public employees with termination if they refused to help him violate the Constitution, engaged in massive corruption, illegally cut off public funds to local governments whose leaders refused to back his quest for more power, denied basic government services to his critics, refused to enforce dozens of laws passed by Congress, and spent the country into virtual bankruptcy, refusing to submit a budget so that he could illegally spend public funds on his cronies.
Journalists nonsensically refer to Honduras’s removal of its ex-president as a “coup” even while admitting that it was approved by the country’s supreme court. But if it was legal, by definition, it cannot be a coup, since a coup is defined as “the unconstitutional overthrow of a legitimate government by a small group.”
Moreover, the ex-president’s removal was not a “coup” because it was not committed by a “small group,” as the definition of “coup” requires. The removal of Honduras’s president was supported by the entire Honduran Supreme Court, an almost unanimous Honduran Congress, and much of Honduran society. Honduras did not lose its government, but merely replaced one illegitimate part of it: its overbearing president. And his removal from office (as opposed to his subsequent exile) was clearly legally justified.
Law professors like James Lindgren, Jonathan Adler, Glenn Reynolds, and William Jacobson have also criticized the administration’s position on Honduras.
By levying sanctions on Honduras, and refusing to recognize its current government, the Obama administration has destabilized the country, one of the poorest in Latin America, resulting in mass layoffs leading to 65% unemployment among workers at small and medium-size enterprises in Honduras. Vulnerable social groups in Honduras, like orphans, have suffered especially acutely, and malnutrition has risen.
While attacking Honduras’ democratically-elected Congress and Supreme Court for their role in removing and replacing the country’s ex-president and would-be dictator, the Obama administration has paid little attention to human-rights abuses in countries ruled by dictatorships. Those countries include Guinea, where troops recently committed mass rapes against women in broad daylight; Niger, where the president recently turned himself into a dictator; Iran, where vast numbers of pro-democracy demonstrators have been tortured or killed; and Nicaragua, right next door to Honduras, where the unpopular president, who routinely engages in vote fraud, is busy trampling on constitutional term limits in order to turn himself into a president-for-life.