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Thu Sep 17, 2020, 06:21 PM

Trump isn't first president to abuse the Constitution, but he's gone so far we need a reckoning

The Constitutionís carefully designed structure of checks and balances, electoral responsibility and legal accountability has failed in significant and ominous ways during the Donald Trump presidency, but not all of these failures are unique to Trump. Many build on trends that have been apparent for years and practices engaged in by prior administrations. But they have presented themselves in particularly extreme or virulent forms during the past four years.

Exactly 233 years after the Constitution was signed, on Sept. 17, 1787, it is worth looking at why this has happened and what we can do about it.

Some of these constitutional failures stem from provisions in the document itself, such as the concentration of military and administrative authority in the person of the president. In such cases, the expansion of presidential power might be expected under the so-called "unitary executive" theory.

But these otherwise innocuous design features present unique dangers when the political system has resulted in the selection of an authoritarian-minded president, or when other constitutional actors fail to produce the counteracting checks intended to hold presidential power in place and assure its responsible use.



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