Flashback to May 2016: “Donald Trump’s Constitution of One”

April 3rd, 2017

In May 2016, I penned a lengthy essay in National Review, titled Donald Trump’s Constitution of One. I had largely forgotten about it until I noticed that Eric Posner included it in the syllabus for his class, Trump and the Constitution. I re-read my old work and was struck by the opening paragraph:

On January 20, 2017, Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath of office to the 45th president: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Donald Trump is utterly unqualified to keep this solemn pledge to our most fundamental law. We know this because in winning the nomination, Trump has already promised that he will knowingly break the law and violate the Constitution.

I did a double-take: my discussion presaged contemporary debates about the significance of the President’s oath, most articulately expressed by Ben Wittes and Quinta Jurecic.

My goal in writing this was to make the constitutional case against Trump based on his position about free speech, the separation of powers, and the rule of law more generally. The notion that courts could utilize a deficient oath to engage in open revolt was far, far from my mind.