IntroductionThe presidency of Donald Trump is highly controversial, and many of the president’s opponents claim that he represents a danger to the fundamental institutions of the U.S. government. While some of Trump’s actions and characteristics would likely cause concern for the Framers, there are other areas in which the Framers would believe that Trump has been doing a relatively good job. Nevertheless, many Trump opponents have floated the idea of removing him from office using the 25th amendment. However, this would be inappropriate.
Possible Concerns of the Framers
When evaluating Trump’s actions as president, the Framers would probably be concerned about his finances. The Constitution includes the Emoluments Clause, which bars government officials from receiving payments from foreign states. Some have argued that Trump is in violation of this clause because he owns businesses that are accepting payments from foreign states (Farenthold & O’Connell, 2017). Even if the Framers did not view this as grounds for impeachment, they would probably have recommended against it. Much of the spirit of the American Revolution was founded on anger about the corruption of England’s King George III, and the Framers did not want a head of state who was seeking financial enrichment. Therefore, they would have been against financial entanglements with foreign governments that could lead to conflicts of interest for President Trump.
At the same time, the Framers would have approved of Trump’s other efforts in relation to foreign governments – specifically, his “American First” foreign policy. Since taking office, Trump has pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement, rejected the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and distanced the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). These actions are consistent with George Washington’s warnings against “foreign entanglements” in his Farewell Address (The Historic Present, 2012). Thus, Washington and the other Framers would have approved of Trump’s suspicion of getting too involved with other countries and potentially allowing foreign adversaries to have a significant influence on American citizens.
Another concern that the Framers might have had about Trump is his clear love of campaigning. While the first few presidential candidates were eager to hold the office of the presidency, it was considered inappropriate to openly campaign for the office (Knott, 2017). In contrast, Trump constantly talks about his campaign victory, and he held his first re-election fundraiser less than six months after taking office, and a full forty months before Election Day (Bykowicz & Colvin, 2017). While the Framers would likely have recognized the necessity for campaigning today, Trump’s early start and overall preoccupation with campaigning is unprecedented. This may have concerned the Framers.
Finally, the Framers may have been concerned about Trump’s cavalier attitude toward the separation of powers. For the Framers, an independent judiciary was an extremely important aspect of the Constitution. Therefore, they would likely have been concerned about Trump’s characterization of the court system as a “rigged system,” as well as his referral to federal judge Gonzalo Curiel as a “so-called judge” during his campaign (Beinart, 2016). Even though Trump had not yet been elected president, the Framers would probably have worried about his attitude toward the separation of powers.
Using the 25th Amendment to Remove Trump from Office
Some of Trump’s opponents have called for the 25th amendment to be used to remove Trump from office. The 25th amendment makes it possible for the president to be removed from office if the majority of the cabinet and two-thirds of Congress agree that he is unable to fulfill the duties of the office (Douthat, 2017). Trump’s opponents have argued that Trump’s mental state has rendered him unable to hold the office (Douthat, 2017). However, no mental health professional has declared that there is a problem with Trump’s mental health, and the Goldwater Rule of the American Psychiatric Association forbids psychiatrists for making statements about an individual’s mental health without personally examining them (Cornish, 2017). With no mental health evaluation to back up their claims, the efforts of Trump’s opponents to oust him from office using the 25th amendment are inappropriate. It is one thing to oppose Trump, but another to play politics through psychiatry. There is a difference between being crazy and driving your opponents crazy, and Trump’s actions still fall firmly within the latter category.
- Beinart, P. (2016). Trump takes aim at the independent judiciary. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/06/the-gop-front-runner-takes-aim-at-the-independent-judiciary/485087/
- Bykowicz, J. & Colvin, J. (2017). Trump trashes media, cheers wins at $10 million fundraiser. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/with-40-months-to-go-trump-holds-re-election-fundraiser/2017/06/28/d6af5da0-5c68-11e7-aa69-3964a7d55207_story.html?utm_term=.c60322a65768
- Cornish, A. (2017). Psychiatrists divided over the ‘Goldwater Rule’ in the age of Trump. National Public Radio. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2017/05/15/528502969/psychiatrists-divided-over-the-goldwater-rule-in-the-age-of-trump
- Douthat, R. (2017). The 25th amendment solution for removing Trump. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/opinion/25th-amendment-trump.html
- Farenthold, D.A. & O’Connell, J. (2017). What is the ‘Emoluments Clause’? Does it apply to President Trump? The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/what-is-the-emoluments-clause-does-it-apply-to-president-trump/2017/01/23/12aa7808-e185-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html?utm_term=.a4520fcc05c4
- Knott, S. (2017). George Washington: Campaigns and elections. UVA Miller Center. Retrieved from https://millercenter.org/president/washington/campaigns-and-elections
- Washington’s farewell address: Avoiding foreign entanglements. (2012). The Historic Present. Retrieved from https://thehistoricpresent.com/2012/03/27/washingtons-farewell-address-avoiding-foreign-entanglements/