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Can a Chinese company really sue Barack Obama?

The AP reports today that a Chinese-owned company has added Barack Obama as a defendent in a lawsuit: In an amended complaint filed late Monday, Ralls Corp. said Obama "acted in an unlawful and unauthorized manner" in citing national security grounds to order it to halt construction of four wind farm projects near the Naval ...

JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages
JIM WATSON/AFP/GettyImages

The AP reports today that a Chinese-owned company has added Barack Obama as a defendent in a lawsuit:

In an amended complaint filed late Monday, Ralls Corp. said Obama "acted in an unlawful and unauthorized manner" in citing national security grounds to order it to halt construction of four wind farm projects near the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in Boardman, Ore. The U.S. military has acknowledged using the base to test unmanned drones and electronic warfare aircraft.

In its complaint filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, Ralls said Obama provided no evidence of security risks in his use of a national defense law ordering the firm to halt its projects and divest the four wind farms. Last month, the firm sued Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and a multi-agency national security panel, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, in a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. government had exceeded its legal authority in ordering a halt to the wind farm projects.

Unless I’m missing something here, this seems like a bit of an odd move, since the president can’t be sued — at least not for an executive order. The 1982 Supreme Court case Nixon v. Fitzgerald  held that the president is "entitled to absolute immunity from damages liability predicated on his official acts." (Sexual harassment committed before the president is in office is another story.)

Given that the lawsuit seems almost guaranteed to be thrown out, the Obama campaign probably isn’t too sorry to see more publicity for the decision. The executive order in question doesn’t really explain why the government believes Ralls "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States" and the Chinese media is blaming the move on election season "China-bashing".

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