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Mitt Romney Q&A

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Charlie Savage
Globe Staff / December 20, 2007

1. Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?

Intelligence and surveillance have proven to be some of the most effective national security tools we have to protect our nation. Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive and the President should not hesitate to use every legal tool at his disposal to keep America safe.


2. In what circumstances, if any, would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress? (Specifically, what about the strategic bombing of suspected nuclear sites -- a situation that does not involve stopping an IMMINENT threat?)

A President must always act in the best interests of the United States to protect us against a potential threat, including a nuclear Iran. Naturally, it is always preferable to seek agreement of all – leadership of our government as well as our friends around the world – where those circumstances are available.

3. Does the Constitution empower the president to disregard a congressional statute limiting the deployment of troops -- either by capping the number of troops that may be deployed to a particular country or by setting minimum home-stays between deployments? In other words, is that level of deployment management beyond the constitutional power of Congress to regulate?

The founders created a constitutional system in which the war power was divided between the President and Congress. A President must respect the constitutional design while at the same time remain faithful to commander-in-chief powers and obligations to keep this country safe.

4. Under what circumstances, if any, would you sign a bill into law but also issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass the law?

I share the view of many past presidents that signing statements are an important presidential practice.

5. Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?

All US citizens are entitled to due process, including at least some type of habeas corpus relief regardless whether they are designated unlawful enemy combatants or not.

6. Does executive privilege cover testimony or documents about decision-making within the executive branch not involving confidential advice communicated to the president himself?

Courts have recognized that there is a valid need for protecting communications among high government officials and those who advise and assist them. Before invoking the privilege, a President should carefully weigh, among other factors, the interest in disclosure and the interest in preserving the confidentiality of deliberations and advice in the Executive Branch. As an institutional matter, the President must also protect the prerogatives of his Office for future presidents.

7. If Congress defines a specific interrogation technique as prohibited under all circumstances, does the president's authority as commander in chief ever permit him to instruct his subordinates to employ that technique despite the statute?

A President should decline to reveal the method and duration of interrogation techniques to be used against high value terrorists who are likely to have counter-interrogation training. This discretion should extend to declining to provide an opinion as to whether Congress may validly limit his power as to the use of a particular technique, especially given Congress’s current plans to try to do exactly that.

8. Under what circumstances, if any, is the president, when operating overseas as commander-in-chief, free to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified?

The President must carry out all of his duties in a manner consistent with the rule of law, whether it is our Constitution or valid international agreements, so long as they do not impinge upon the President’s constitutional authority.

9. Do you agree or disagree with the statement made by former Attorney General Gonzales in January 2007 that nothing in the Constitution confers an affirmative right to habeas corpus, separate from any statutory habeas rights Congress might grant or take away?

The availability and limitation of habeas corpus is governed by current federal statutory law and the Suspension Clause of the US Constitution, Article I, § 9, cl. 2.

10. Is there any executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that you think is unconstitutional? Anything you think is simply a bad idea?

The Bush Administration has kept the American people safe since 9/11. The Administration’s strong view on executive power may well have contributed to that fact.

11. Who are your campaign's advisers for legal issues?

The campaign receives legal advice from members of the Romney for President Advisory Committee on the Constitution and the Courts, which is comprised of some of our nation’s top constitutional scholars and legal experts.

12. Do you think it is important for all would-be presidents to answer questions like these before voters decide which one to entrust with the powers of the presidency? What would you say about any rival candidate who refuses to answer such questions?

These are important questions that each candidate for President should carefully consider with the benefit of advice from legal, diplomatic, and military experts.

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