In an interview with the political site Axios, set to air on the publication’s new HBO program which premieres on November 4, Donald Trump claimed that he can change a key provision of the United States Constitution simply by issuing an executive order. While many legal experts dismissed Trump’s claim as implausible, at least one top constitutional scholar warned that Trump’s declaration signals a power grab — a grab that could result in Trump becoming a dictator.
In the interview, Trump said that he plans to reinterpret a clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that establishes “birthright citizenship,” that is, the “principle that every child born on U.S. soil is automatically a native-born citizen, regardless of the immigration status of the parents,” as Vox.com explained.
According to Article Five, the only way to amend the Constitution is through votes of three-fourths of all state legislatures, per The National Archives. But Trump told Axios that he disagrees, at least in part.
“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,” Trump said in the interview, an excerpt of which may be viewed below. “You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.”
Trump declares he can end birthright citizenship with an executive order: "It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't." pic.twitter.com/CAK07Kt11D
— Axios (@axios) October 30, 2018
But according to Harvard University constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, writing on his Twitter account, Trump’s claimed power to change the Constitution by executive order could be the first step toward Trump assuming “dictatorial” power.
“If the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship could be wiped out with the stroke of Trump’s pen, the whole U.S. Constitution could be erased that way,” Tribe wrote. “There’s no limit to that dictatorial claim over all our rights.”
Political author and commentator Amanda Marcotte used a similar word to describe what Trump claims to be planning — “fascist.”
“The question then is whether or not Trump is willing to start moving into the direction he clearly wishes to go, which is to start ignoring the constitution,” Marcotte wrote via her own Twitter. “If he finds he can, then we can probably stop calling him a ‘proto’-fascist.”
New York State’s Attorney General, Barbara Underwood, quickly responded on Twitter as well, pledging to fight any move by Trump to alter the Constitution through legal means.
“The Constitution is clear. If Pres. Trump’s pre-Election Day ploy to unconstitutionally end birthright citizenship moves forward, we will see him in court,” Underwood wrote.
Whether Trump would actually seek to amend the Constitution itself, rather than to reinterpret a clause of the 14th Amendment, has not yet been made clear.
Fears that Trump would attempt to assume the role of dictator have circulated since the 2016 presidential election campaign, as Inquisitr reported. At the time, Bernie Sanders — noting Trump’s claim that he “alone” was capable of fixing country’s problems — wondered aloud, “Trump: ‘I alone can fix this.’ Is this guy running for president or dictator?”