Does Donald Trump understand the Constitution? | The Tylt
Does Donald Trump understand the Constitution?
Donald Trump floated the idea of getting rid of birthright citizenship during an interview with Axios. According to Trump, his administration would abolish the right for non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants. After the Axios journalist pushed him on the legitimacy of undoing a constitutional amendment with a presidential order, Trump doubled down on his claim.
Trump told "Axios on HBO" that he has run the idea of ending birthright citizenship by his counsel and plans to proceed with the highly controversial move, which certainly will face legal challenges.
"It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't," Trump said, declaring he can do it by executive order.
When told that's very much in dispute, Trump replied: "You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order."
However, even scholars who believe birthright citizenship in its current form may be overused disagree with the president about how the amendment could be changed. Per Politico:
Rogers Smith, a left-leaning University of Pennsylvania political science professor who specializes in constitutional law, has argued that the Constitution doesn't require that birthright citizenship be extended to undocumented individuals, and that Congress could pass a law denying it to them. But “I know of no remotely plausible legal theory," Smith said, "under which the president has the power to decide birthright citizenship rules by executive order."
“No one except the Trump White House thinks it’s a matter of executive discretion,” Smith told POLITICO in an email. “Trump’s announcement of this position a week before the election is clearly playing politics with people’s civic status and lives in the worst possible way.”
This is not the first time the president has shown a complete ignorance about the way the government and Constitution work. A Politico story from 2017 details how Trump began bragging about his new tax plan, which he said had been getting "great reviews," shortly after taking office. However:
The legislation hadn’t been introduced. What the White House put forward was just a framework to be filled in during the normal bargaining process on Capitol Hill.
That was after the president tweeted that the “approval process” for his tax reform package would soon begin, which, again, is not how Congress works. The House of Representatives will introduce its own bill, incorporating some of the president’s priorities, to be sure, but there will be no formal process of approval for what he’s proposed. Some of his preferred policies might not make it into the final bill at all.
It’s possible the president knew all this, that his tweets were merely inelegant phrasing, and in any event we all can get the gist of what he meant. Then again, it’s also possible, and indeed there is ample evidence, that the president of the United States really doesn’t understand the constitutional process, or even American history, much at all.