Civil libertarians and constitutional experts fear that the president will use a moment of crisis to grab more power. Already, Trump has exploited the pandemic as a reason for heightening border restrictions and restricting asylum claims.
The Justice Department has secretly demanded Congress give Trump the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial — part of a push for new powers that comes as the novel coronavirus spreads throughout the United States. The request raised eyebrows because of its potential implications for habeas corpus — the constitutional right to appear before a judge after arrest and seek release. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.
The department also asked Congress to pause the statute of limitations for criminal investigations and civil proceedings during national emergencies, “and for one year following the end of the national emergency,” according to the draft legislative text.