Trump supporters have been fooled into believing that the norms Trump has broken are legal and pro-democracy. The opposite is true, and the result is the United States is being led by a man who would be indicted for crimes against the U.S. government if he were not the president. Because some of the norms/laws he has broken violate the Constitution ( not arguable, not fake), he qualifies as the most unAmerican president in history. In reality-TV style, Trump dupes his fans into believing he loves democracy with stunts like hugging the flag and holding Bibles in the air, and with slogans like “America First” ( taken from the 1940s) and “Make America Great Again” stolen from Ronald Reagan. These are distractions from his refusal to denounce white supremacy and his dangerous assault on America’s public health by his failure to manage the pandemic and from his “super-spreader” behaviors.
While falsely convincing his base, he is devoted to their needs; he manipulates the balance of power in the government to feed his narcissistic personality and grow his wealth. He has retained control of his businesses and has encouraged foreign leaders to stay at his properties. This is a violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. His political rhetoric is short on policy detail; rather, it is injected with grandiose praise of himself and attacks on Democrats and anyone who opposes him. His opposition to or support of specific laws and policies rests on whether they restrict or expand their power.
Despite the Constitution’s definitive criteria for what a president ” cannot do,” Trump has interpreted the power of the presidency to be absolute. However, his corrupt intent cannot change the reality that the Constitution prohibits the president from;
- Declaring war
- Deciding how money is to be spent
- Making laws
- Interpreting laws
- Choose Cabinet Members and Supreme Court Justices without Senate approval
#1 REFORM NEEDED: PLACE ADDITIONAL LIMITATIONS ON THE POWER OF THE PRESIDENCY BY;
- Removing the Department of Justice policy that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
- Restricting the president’s pardon power for felons in cases involving him
- Restricting presidential power to use the military for political purposes against U.S. citizens
- Requiring the president to comply with congressional subpoenas and prohibiting him from ordering others to defy subpoenas
- Regulating the president’s access to the Department of Justice to reduce corruption of department staff and policy
- Forcing transparency by requiring presidents to produce their tax returns, financial relationships with foreign governments, and medical records
- Sanctioning the president if he/ she attempts to interfere in congressionally appropriated spending
- Sanctioning the president’s violation of any of the presidential restrictions outlined in the Constitution.
- Eliminating lifetime appointments for Supreme Court Justices and federal judges
- Eliminating the president’s secret calls on private servers to adversaries without the presence of a military general or the Secretary of Defense on the call
Another area of concern is the president’s sole discretion in filling high-level government jobs. Trump initially chose people he thought he could control and would be undyingly loyal. So when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis showed professional strength and integrity and at times opposed him, they were fired. Subsequently, communication directors, chiefs of staff, Intelligence officers, The Secretary of Defense, national security advisors, and ambassadors were either fired or resigned. Trump has demonstrated impulsive, erratic, and misguided judgment in staffing the government. An unqualified, autocrat’s judgment and out of control ego has created an unstable, dysfunctional U.S. government
Disappointed in his first round of choices, Trump became defiant about the scrutiny of confirmation hearings for permanent appointees to his administration. In his corrupt resistance to oversight, he broke another norm and began appointing people to jobs in an “acting capacity” to circumvent congressional approval. This practice broadened his power to hire cronies into significant government jobs. To counteract this attempt at autocracy, a new congress should consider the following reform:
#2 REFORM NEEDED: FORMALIZE PRESIDENTIAL HIRING AND FIRING PROTOCOLS FOR HIGH-LEVEL GOVERNMENT POSITIONS
- Enact legislation to mandate shared authority for hiring and firing presidential appointees. Eliminate the policy of “serving at the pleasure of the president.” An impulsive autocrat loses pleasure with people erratically.
- Formulate non-negotiable job requirements for each job
- Define the set of standards for firing an appointee with the only reason being the president got mad
Additionally, Congress should approve legislation being introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and The House of Representatives that expands on the 25th Amendment to create other means to remove an incompetent president from office. While Trump and AG William Barr assault the American Constitution in favor of a more autocratic government, we the people have learned from the Trump presidency that an incompetent, unstable, autocratic president puts democracy’s survival at risk.