LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Maybe President Trump should read the Constitution

On Jan. 20, our new president put his hand on a Bible and swore an oath that he would “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Ever since that day, he has shown no indication that he took that oath seriously, or that he has even the slightest knowledge or understanding of our basic frame of government. He seems to think that there is only one branch of the federal government — the executive — and that anyone in the legislative or judicial branches who stands in his way is not a legitimate officeholder, but an enemy, a “so-called” judge, or some other malevolent actor that is conspiring against him and the American people. Even though public opinion polls show that he is the least popular new president of modern times, in his mind — which to him is the only one that counts — he is our Fearless Leader, who must not be questioned.

His trampling on the Constitution goes way beyond the typical and perennial tug of war [among] our three branches; his lack of respect for legitimate political differences strikes at the heart of our constitutional democracy. By labeling the press as “enemies of the people,” he is encouraging his supporters to believe that any critical reporting of him or his administration is tantamount to treason — the underlying philosophy of every despotic or totalitarian state in history — and is also a clear repudiation of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

His ham-handed executive order on immigration was another assault on the very first item of the First Amendment — freedom of religion. When he suggested a ban on Muslim immigration as a candidate, it should have immediately been obvious that he knew nothing about the Constitution, which specifically bans “religious tests” for office and also protects religious freedom in the first clause of the First Amendment. One of Mr. Trump’s illustrious predecessors in the White House, James Madison, the author of that amendment, is surely rolling in his grave these days.

Imagine for a moment that Hillary Clinton had been elected president, and then, shortly after her inauguration, she had declared that gun owners were “enemies of the people.” The outcry would have been so deafening and the uproar so powerful that impeachment hearings would probably be underway by now, because the defenders of the Second Amendment would have settled for no less. I, for one, believe that the First Amendment is even more important for our liberty, but when Mr. Trump, within a few days of swearing to protect our Constitution, essentially declared that he did not believe in or support that amendment, that those who exercised their rights under it were “enemies,” and as he clearly began doing everything he could to undermine it, I heard no calls for his impeachment. Perhaps the fear of being the object of a vicious tweet from the White House prevented it.

Mr. Trump, who, as a classic paranoid personality, sees enemies everywhere, now apparently believes that there is a “deep state” conspiracy to undermine him by suggesting that his campaign was tied to Russia in some way. He could easily help put this problem to rest by one act: releasing his tax returns in full. He should have done this long ago; of all the nominees for president in the past 50 years, he, with all of his widespread business interests, and with all the potential conflicts of interest that [they] engendered, needed to have full financial disclosure to remove any clouds of doubt that he might use his office for his personal financial gain.

Those clouds of doubt have only grown bigger since his election, and now that the controversy surrounding his potential business or other ties to Russia is crippling his presidency, the urgency and need for him to fully release his tax returns — just as he once demanded that President Obama release his birth certificate — is critical for himself, as well as the country. With all of the damage that it is now causing, it has gotten to the point that his continued refusal to release his tax returns is virtual confirmation that all of the suspicions of his financial ties to Russian interests are true.

Months ago, I wrote in this newspaper that Mr. Trump was unfit to hold the office of President of the United States. [“Still’s ‘Change of course’ would run us aground,” Letters to the Editor, Oct. 9, 2016] I have seen absolutely no reason to change that opinion. On the contrary, I am now more convinced of it than before.

Daniel Pritchett

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