Trump Would Be a Constitutional Crisis Waiting to Happen

The American businessman-turned-politician has no patience for the restraints on the office he seeks.

Businessman Donald Trump points during a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, June 18
Businessman Donald Trump points during a speech in Phoenix, Arizona, June 18 (Gage Skidmore)

One of the reasons Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy is so disconcerting is that the businessman-turned-politician has no regard for the constitutional restraints on the office he seeks.

Not only is Trump unfamiliar with the Constitution (he promised lawmakers earlier this month to honor a non-existing Article 12 of the founding document); he doesn’t care to learn. The whole idea of his candidacy is that he alone can fix America’s problems by bending national politics to his will. His supporters openly long for a strongman.

Think for a moment how that would play out.


Consider that Trump has said he would order soldiers to kill the family of terrorists. That’s not only illegal under American law, it’s a warcrime under international law.

Military leaders, retired and serving, have said the army would never carry out such an order. The president, after all, is not above the law.

Trump begs to differ. “They won’t refuse,” he has said. “They’re not going to refuse me — believe me.”

What if they do?

Prosecuting journalists

Another example: Trump has said he wants to open up libel laws, so he can go after journalists who write negative stories about him.

Congress is not going to tighten libel laws for Trump’s sake and no sane prosecutor would go attempt to put journalists in jail who offend the notoriously tin-skinned Donald Trump.

Then what would Trump do? Fire federal prosecutors until he finds one that will comply?

Fundamental principles

These aren’t constitutional niceties we’re talking about. These are fundamental principles of the American system of government: the president and the military are subject to the law like everyone else; journalists have a right — many of them would say an obligation — to write critically about those in power.

These are the kind of norms that make America the country it is: where the people are free and the law is supreme.

Trump couldn’t care less.

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