OK, so I checked on Amazon and there is actually a book called “The U.S. Constitution for Dummies.” That settles the question of what I’m getting our president-elect for Christmas.
Because — I’ve got to tell you folks, some of Mr. Trump’s latest actions and public pronouncements make me wonder if he’s ever heard of the document, much less read it.
Take, for instance, this tweet he sent at 6 in the morning this past Tuesday: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!”
For those of you wondering “where did that come from?” there was apparently a Fox News story that ran about that time on that issue, and of course, if Fox News does a story on it, the soon-to-be-leader of the fee world has to weigh in immediately.
The only problem is, it’s well-settled law that burning the U.S. flag as a means of protest is protected speech under that pesky First Amendment.
No less a conservative lion than the late Antonin Scalia stated that “If I were king, I wouldn’t go about letting people burn the American flag,” but that “we have a First Amendment which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged.” Scalia, however he may have gritted his teeth at having to do so, signed on to a Supreme Court opinion striking down a Texas law that made flag-burning a criminal offense.
Note, however, that Trump, a man who’s said he wants justices “in the mold” of Justice Scalia, was suggesting that maybe he’d go further than imprisonment, to outright revocation of citizenship.
This raises the question of whether Mr. Trump is aware of the Fourteenth Amendment, which provides that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” There’s no provision for the president or anyone else revoking someone’s citizenship, especially for acts protected under the First Amendment.
I’m sure some Trumpkins will fall back to their default defense, namely “But Hillary!” and point out that in 2005, then-Sen. Clinton co-sponsored a bill that would have criminalized the burning of the U.S. flag for the “primary purpose of intimidation or inciting immediate violence or for the act of terrorism.”
Well, let me say this about that: (1) She was wrong, and engaging in the kind of pandering that led me to describe her as “Republican Lite” for years; (2) The bill failed, as it bloody well should have; and (3) enjoy “But Hillary!” in the last few weeks you’ll be able to use it. Pretty soon she’s going to be off the public stage, and bringing her up will just seem more and more sad and desperate.
There are those who have suggested that PEOTUS is merely pumping out outrageous tweets to draw public and press attention away from the more serious issues posed by the many conflicts of interest posed by his business interests, both in America and abroad.
Here again, we invite Mr. Trump to peruse the Constitution, in particular the often-overlooked “Emoluments Clause” of Article One, which forbids anyone “holding any Office of Profit or Trust … without the Consent of the Congress,” from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
Now, considering the negotiations and entanglements Mr. Trump and his worldwide enterprises have in foreign states and the desire of kings and princes to curry favor with the most powerful man in the free world, one would think that Mr. Trump might want to steer clear of not only actual conflicts of interest, but also of what we in the law biz call “the appearance of impropriety” in business concessions or payments from foreign leaders.
One might think that. But, as one of my old law professors used to say, one would be wrong. Mr. Trump has indicated that he’ll leave his businesses to be run by his children, but would “presents, Emoluments, Offices, or Titles” given to a Trump scion insulate Trump himself from charges of corruption? Let’s just say I have my doubts.
The House and Senate are all lovey-dovey right now, but Mr. Trump has said some pretty harsh things about the party you lead, and in particular about the Speaker of the House. Once the celebrations are over and the hard give-and-take of governing begins, he may be on thinner ice than he realizes.
So enjoy my gift of “The U.S. Constitution For Dummies,” Mr. President-Elect, and I hope that you read with close attention, particularly Article 2, Section 4. That’s the one about impeachment for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors.”