Sunday Extra: Executive order should be rescinded

Sunday Extra: Executive order should be rescinded


On Dec. 21, the White House issued an executive order "Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption."

President Trump summarized his rationale as follows: "I therefore determine that serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat."

"Serious human rights abuse" is undefined, but corruption is described as "the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources or bribery."

This order only affects U.S. property owned by foreign individuals or entities, perhaps because there's no concern for due process. If the Treasury secretary in consultation with the attorney general and secretary of state determines that someone has engaged in corruption or serious human rights abuse, then his U.S. assets can be frozen without notice. What happens to the assets later isn't specified, except that the three Cabinet officers can unfreeze them.

The annex at the end of the order lists 13 targeted individuals, but the scope could greatly expand. All countries, including the U.S., are guilty of corruption and human rights abuse to some degree.

In many countries, wealthy individuals and major corporations have intimate ties to their governments which would make them vulnerable to this order. In fact, some observers wonder if China and Russia will be targeted as part of our recently declared economic war.

The U.S. historically has been a safe place to invest. One of our attractions has been our commitment to due process and the rule of law.

As a result, many foreign individuals have bought U.S. assets to protect their wealth. And many foreign corporations have bought American companies or set up subsidiaries to expand their markets.

When assets can be frozen without due process, foreigners will reconsider investing in the U.S. With the development of the global economy, many countries now offer attractive investment opportunities. If foreigners start selling U.S. assets, the dollar and our stock, bond and real estate markets will drop in value. Our job market will also contract. Illinois doesn't need any more economic challenges.

A greater danger is that targeted countries will retaliate. Why shouldn't they apply to us the same standards we apply to them? Our record on corruption and human rights abuse is problematic. Where would this cycle of retaliation end?

There probably will be litigation to prevent this order from going into effect. Although corruption and human rights abuse are serious matters, this isn't an appropriate solution. The effects of this order could harm our economy and international relations in a manner that far outweighs any good it might do and might last long after Trump leaves office. This order is not in the best interest of the American people and should be rescinded.

The order can be found at

Dianna Visek of Urbana is the former chair of the Champaign County Libertarian Party.