http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/09/26/president-trumps-first-term...What, exactly, can a President do? To prevent the ascent of what the Anti-Federalist Papers, in 1787, called “a Caesar, Caligula, Nero, and Domitian in America,” the founders gave Congress the power to make laws, and the Supreme Court the final word on the Constitution. But in the nineteen-thirties Congress was unable to mount a response to the rise of Nazi Germany, and during the Cold War the prospect of sudden nuclear attack further consolidated authority in the White House.

“These checks are not gone completely, but they’re much weaker than I think most people assume,” Eric Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said. “Congress has delegated a great deal of power to the President, Presidents have claimed power under the Constitution, and Congress has acquiesced.” The courts, Posner added, are slow. “If you have a President who is moving very quickly, the judiciary can’t do much. A recent example of this would be the war on terror. The judiciary put constraints on President Bush—but it took a very long time.”

Some of Trump’s promises would be impossible to fulfill without the consent of Congress or the courts; namely, repealing Obamacare, cutting taxes, and opening up “our libel laws” that protect reporters, so that “we can sue them and win lots of money.” (In reality, there are no federal libel laws.) Even if Republicans retain control of Congress, they are unlikely to have the sixty votes in the Senate required to overcome a Democratic filibuster.

However, Trump could achieve many objectives on his own. A President has the unilateral authority to renegotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, to order a ban on Muslims, and to direct the Justice Department to give priority to certain offenses, with an eye to specific targets. During the campaign, he has accused Amazon of “getting away with murder tax-wise,” and vowed, if he wins, “Oh, do they have problems.”

Any of those actions could be contested in court. The American Civil Liberties Union has analyzed Trump’s promises and concluded, in the words of the executive director, Anthony Romero, that they would “violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments to the Constitution.” ...

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