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The President's Power to Support Ukraine
Michael Ramsey

In an account of President Biden's recent dramatic visit to Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reports:

Standing beside Mr. Zelensky with American and Ukrainian flags, Mr. Biden pledged unwavering support for Ukraine and its sovereignty and territorial independence. He wore a suit and a striped tie bearing Ukraine’s blue and yellow colors.

“I thought it was critical that there not be any doubt, none whatsoever, about U.S. support for Ukraine in the war,” Mr. Biden said.

The visit was an overt and public U.S. challenge to Mr. Putin. ...

Of course, nothing the President did or said created any binding obligations on the United States.  But, as an analysis at Real Clear Politics concluded:

His presence sent a message of defiance to Putin most directly and a cherished sign of resolve and empathy for the people of Ukraine. 

And it carries risks:

The personal nature of the president’s rebuke to Putin is meanwhile likely to trigger a response from a ruthless leader who has shown no mercy to civilians and a cruel indifference to the value of human life – Russian as well as Ukrainian. One potential way Biden’s visit could backfire is that it could bolster Putin’s claim that he is really fighting a war against the West rather than an independent sovereign nation – a framing that is popular among some Russians and is one Biden has tried to avoid.

My question is: where does the U.S. President get the constitutional power to send this powerful, potentially risky and perhaps controversial message on behalf of the United States?  I've not heard any constitutional objections to it.  But if, as a number of scholars argue (for example, Professor Julian Mortenson, here), that the President has only the foreign affairs powers listed in Article II, Sections 2 and 3, that list looks unpromising.  President Biden was not appointing (or even acting through) U.S. ambassadors, receiving foreign ambassadors, making treaties, or doing anything related to his power as commander in chief of the military.  So far as I'm aware there's no statute authorizing his actions (and as the Journal article goes on to say, Congress is actually somewhat divided on the matter).  I don't see how Professor Mortenson and others who agree with him could think the President's trip, and the  message it sent, was within the President's constitutional authority.

My answer (which won't surprise regular readers) is that the President gets the authority from Article II, Section 1.  That section vests the President with the "executive Power."  As I and others have argued at length (see here), leading commentators in the eighteenth century described executive power as including foreign affairs power.  Of course the Constitution allocated quite a bit of foreign affairs power away from the President.  But (we argue) foreign affairs powers not allocated elsewhere remain with the President as part of the Article II, Section 1 executive power.  Most importantly, this category includes the power to speak for for the United States, and communicate with foreign powers, on international matters.

As a result, President Biden's visit and the message it sent were entirely within the President's constitutional power.  But only under the theory of executive foreign affairs power.