The Constitutional Law Issues of Iron Man 3

This post has spoilers on Iron Man 3, so cease and desist all reading if you want to be “surprised” in the the movie.

Iron Patriot & The War Powers Act

The Iron Patriot presents a “small” Constitutional Law issue, if you consider ordering military action on foreign countries small. Arguably, the President would have to inform Congress every time the Iron Patriot was sent into “hostilities or imminent danger” within 48 hours, because he is 1) an Air Force Officer and 2) Carrying out Presidential orders in the defense of the United States.

The War Powers Act of 1973 reporting requirements in Section 4 state:

(a) In the absence of a declaration of war, in any case in which United States Armed Forces are introduced–
(1) into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances;
(2) into the territory, airspace or waters of a foreign nation, while equipped for combat, except for deployments which relate solely to supply, replacement, repair, or training of such forces; or
(3) in numbers which substantially enlarge United States Armed Forces equipped for combat already located in a foreign nation; the president shall submit within 48 hours to the Speaker of the House of  Representatives and to the President pro tempore of the Senate a report, in writing, setting forth–
(A) the circumstances necessitating the introduction of United States Armed Forces;
(B) the constitutional and legislative authority under which such introduction took place; and
(C) the estimated scope and duration of the hostilities or involvement.

Based on the Iron Patriot’s status in the military and reporting to the President, Congress would need to be alerted each time the Iron Patriot was sent into a military engagement.

The bright side of deploying the Iron Patriot is it is unlikely any military action would last long enough to require Congress to authorize the use of additional funds. The downside is use of the Iron Patriot runs the risk of starting a war if a foreign country is not keen on a US super soldier flying in and blowing things up on Presidential orders.

Congress would also have to consider whether a “force bill” that authorized the use of the Iron Patriot against foreign threats would be required. Such force authorization could mirror the ones issued against the Barbary Pirates or War on Terror. However, domestic use of the Iron Patriot runs the risk of violating Posse Comitatus Act, since James Rhodes is in the Air Force.

The Vice President & Impeachment

IronManMiniIron Man 3 presents a large Constitutional issue: the Vice President has the loveable qualities of loyalty demonstrated by Aaron Burr and John Calhoun.

This loyalty was not to country, by to his own self interest that rose to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors.

And we are not talking about lying in a civil deposition.

One of the “big reveals” in Iron Man 3 is the fictional Vice President is part of the criminal conspiracy to kill the fictional President of the United States. This includes multiple acts of terrorism and the destruction of Air Force One.

The only motive alluded to is the VP’s young daughter or granddaughter is missing part of her leg. Apparently, the entire motive for a coup d’état and large scale murder is to grow a child a new leg below her knee. Huge body count to give a child a leg.

The fictional Vice President’s crimes raise several procedures for his prosecution. The film ends with his arrest, but simply arresting the Vice President is not enough: The Vice President would have to be impeached to be removed from office.

Impeachment of the President or Vice President is defined under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, which states the President or Vice President “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The articles of impeachment against the Vice President would have to be drafted by the Judiciary Committee in the House of Representatives, voted on by the full House, and then the case tried in the Senate with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding over the trial. House members would act as the prosecutors.

Treason is defined under Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution, which states, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

IronManFlightThe Vice President would have a strong case of treason against him for supporting a terrorist organization, which would be giving aid to the enemies of the United States.

Moreover, there are additional high crimes against the Vice President, such as the criminal conspiracy to assassinate the President and destruction of government property (Air Force One).

Other crimes carried out by AIM would also be attributable to the Vice President, because they were carried out in furtherance of the conspiracy. This would include kidnapping, torture, illegal medical experimentation on human beings, along with the many deaths in the terrorist attacks.

Once the Vice President was removed from office, the President would then have to nominate a candidate for Vice President, who would need to be confirmed by a majority vote in both Houses of Congress. (See Section 2 of the 25 Amendment to the US Constitution).

However, none of this would be as exciting as Iron Man flying around and blowing things up. Simply put, the Chief Justice’s gavel is not like the Hammer of Thor.

And that would be pretty awesome.