Compliant legal poodles have given classified opinions that he has unlimited power to take actions to win the endless "War on Terror", regardless of what the US Constitution and Congress have to say. This is the basis on which he has authorised torture, domestic surveillance by the Army, the abolition of habeus corpus, warrantless surveillance of Americans — and who knows what else.
His Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito are no-doubt prepared to overturn judicial decisions from the Nixon era that make clear that the Commander-in-Chief does not have unlimited power to "do it my way", and that the Constitution is more than "a goddamned piece of paper". They surely also had long discussions with the Shrub administration over their reaction to any impeachment attempt by the Democrats:
Prof. Christopher Pyle: ...the President admitted that he personally ordered the National Security Agency to violate a federal statute. Now, he has no Constitutional authority to do that. The Constitution says he must take care that all laws be faithfully executed, not just the ones he likes... the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is the exclusive law governing these international intercepts, and he violated it anyway. And the law also says that any person who violates that law is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. By the plain meaning of the law, the President is a criminal.
How can Republicans and Democrats who believe in a republic of laws prevent this outrageous attempt at an anti-Constitutional coup d'etat and put Shrub where he belongs, in jail? And how far are we from the abuses of the 1960s that ultimately led to American withdrawal from Vietnam and the impeachment of Nixon?
Prof. Pyle: In the 1960s, Army intelligence had 1,500 plainclothes agents watching every demonstration of 20 people or more throughout the United States. They had a giant warehouse in Baltimore, Maryland, full of information on the law-abiding activities of American citizens, protest politics, mainly. I learned about this while I was in the Army, just before I was discharged, and I wrote about it after I was discharged, and then investigated it for two congressional committees: Senator Ervin’s Committee on Constitutional Rights and Senator Church’s Select Committee on Intelligence. As a result of those investigations, the entire U.S. Army Intelligence Command was abolished and all of its files were burned.
Bruce Schneier warns that this could be the end, not the beginning, of a descent into US dictatorship:
The result is that the president's wartime powers, with its armies, battles, victories, and congressional declarations, now extend to the rhetorical "War on Terror": a war with no fronts, no boundaries, no opposing army, and -- most ominously -- no knowable "victory." Investigations, arrests and trials are not tools of war. But according to the Yoo memo, the president can define war however he chooses, and remain "at war" for as long as he chooses.
This is indefinite dictatorial power. And I don't use that term lightly; the very definition of a dictatorship is a system that puts a ruler above the law. In the weeks after 9/11, while America and the world were grieving, Bush built a legal rationale for a dictatorship. Then he immediately started using it to avoid the law.