This has been a tough week for President Trump. With a midterm election looming in which his political opposition may wrestle away the House of Representatives, the nation suffered through a series of pipe bombs mailed to Democratic opponents of the President by one of his ardent supporters followed by a racist, nationalist massacre in a Jewish synagogue. The President’s opponents and many in the media were quick to point out how both alleged perpetrators echoed the rhetoric that the President has espoused for the past three years, and suddenly there was an electoral atmosphere that could potentially prove damning for President Trump and his party.
This morning’s threat that President Trump may issue an executive order discontinuing birthright citizenship in the United States serves two purposes. Ignoring for a moment the question of whether the President has the authority to do such a thing, the announcement both took attention away from the pipe bomb and synagogue incidents while also drew the political conversation onto ground that is more friendly to President Trump’s base: immigration, the U.S.-Mexico border, and U.S. citizenship, according to the New Yorker.
Fox News and MSNBC immediately picked up on the citizenship story. However, CNN refused to take the bait, resisting the President’s efforts to redirect the news agenda and instead focused on Pittsburgh, where the funerals for some of the victims were taking place.
President Trump’s ability to enforce such an executive order, apparently in direct violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, is so slight as to be deemed impossible. This further suggests that the breaking of the citizenship story is nothing more than a political ploy.
Paul Ryan, the Republican Speaker of the House, was quick to reject the plausibility of such a move by the President. “You obviously cannot do that,” he told a Kentucky radio station, as reported by NPR. “I’m a believer of following the plain text of the Constitution, and I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy Constitutional process.”
To President Trump’s credit, he is taking the time to travel to Pittsburgh with the First Lady this week to pay his respects to the victims of the synagogue massacre, as he had done previously with the victims of the Las Vegas and Parkland shootings.