With a solid lead in the polls, and hoping to add to his numbers, Donald Trump has been making promises and rolling out proposals for the second term that was denied him in 2020 when he lost to now-President Joe Biden.
In his Truth Social posts and interviews with conservative news outlets, the former president has been floating the idea of using the military to control crime, purging government workers, and siccing the DOJ on whistleblowers.
According to an analysis by the Washington Post, the former president's vision for expanding federal power has all the hallmarks of authoritarianism that has constitutional scholars raising alarms that he will be going way past the extremes he reached during his four years in the Oval Office.
"Where he earlier changed border policies to reduce refugees and people seeking asylum, he’s now promising to conduct an unprecedented deportation operation," the Post's Isaac Arnsdorf and Jeff Stein wrote. "Where he previously moved to make it easier to fire federal workers, he’s now proposing a new civil service exam. After urging state and local officials to take harsher measures on crime and homelessness, Trump says he is now determined to take more direct federal action."
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Noting that Trump's boasts have been singled out as "impractical, reckless, self-defeating, potentially illegal and even dangerous," the Post report adds that the former president, "... has a track record of floating ideas that stoke widespread outrage or confusion, then roiling government and legal institutions to realize them."
According to constitutional law expert Steve Vladeck of the University of Texas, the former president would be going far beyond what is legally permissible.
“As with so many things Trump, it’ll be sticky to sort out where what he’s proposing is literally unlawful, which some things would be, and where what he’s proposing would fly in the face of well-established and deeply principled norms," Vladeck explained.
Larry Diamond of the conservative Stanford University Hoover Institute agreed.
“The Reagan limited-government conservatism and emphasis on federalism is being displaced by a new muscular, nationalizing cultural conservatism, with a lot of anger," warned Diamond. "One thing we’ve learned about Trump and authoritarian populists like him is not to dismiss what they’re saying as just idle language and toothless roar. We need to take it very seriously.”
Describing the former president's hopes to deploy the military domestically, Vladeck added, "Republicans have tried to corner the market on claiming the federal government has been weaponized, but that’s what this is. And the only way you can do that is by interjecting federal authority into matters that constitutionally or at least traditionally have been reserved to the states.”
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