Trump plans to abuse power. Who will stop him?
Steve Vladeck on why the answer might be no one.
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With recent polling showing Donald Trump level or even slightly ahead of President Biden both nationally and in key swing states, a second Trump term and what it would entail has come under increased scrutiny — especially since Trump isn’t particularly trying to hide the fact he aspires to become a dictator.
Against that backdrop, Public Notice contributor Thor Benson chatted with Steve Vladeck, a CNN legal analyst and law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, about Trump’s possible second-term abuses of power and what, if anything, could stop him.
Vladeck’s main area of expertise is the Supreme Court, but he also studies presidential powers and their limits (or lack thereof). Vladeck said that while he isn’t making plans to leave the country if Trump wins in November, he’s worried the courts will prove incapable of saving us from Trump’s excesses — especially considering Republican leaders will likely be even less willing to act as a check on him than they were the first time around.
And looming over all this, of course, is the possibility that Trump once again refuses to leave office, and this time succeeds in his bid to shred the Constitution and install himself in power.
“The real worst-case scenario is what happens in 2029,” Vladeck said.
A transcript of Benson’s conversation with Vladeck, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.
When it comes to how Trump could abuse the power of the presidency in a second term, what are your main concerns?
My principal concern is that what historically would have served to rein in abusive behavior by prior presidents — the kinds of norms and political checks that used to really constrain more ambitious and/or lawless ones — don’t seem to apply to him.
We saw signs of this during Trump’s first term. During his second term we’d really be hit over the head with just how much, historically, we’ve depended upon political constraints to prevent a president from really abusing his power to the maximum extent possible.