President Donald Trump’s twin assertions this week of absolute power to reopen the country and unilateral authority to adjourn Congress are only the latest in a series of claims he has made challenging America’s constitutional order.
But with thousands of people dying of Covid-19 every day, these go beyond the usual Trump distractions and could be more harmful. Instead of prompting what has become the usual response of “can he really do that,” his words could throw an already shaky America further off balance.
Trump often backs down or moves on. But he is the President. His words matter in the moment. Irrespective of how outlandish his Constitution-busting claims seem, he has tried to push his executive power to extremes.
Our constitutional order is the glue that holds the country together, especially in challenging times.
Trump continually flouts the fundamentals of the American framework: the balance between the states and US government, and separation of three federal branches, executive, legislative and judicial.
This week, he said he had “total” authority over states to determine when businesses, schools and other entities reopen across the country and, separately, threatened to invoke never-before-used or tested authority to shut down Congress so he could push through his appointees without a Senate vote.