According to many political watchers and Constitution experts, Donald Trump has neglected his duties as president of the United States.
The long list of grievances his critics point to include Trump’s total inaction as the coronavirus claims more American lives.
Consider that South Korea registered 686 new cases on a recent Wednesday. While it marked that country’s highest daily total since February, at least 45 U.S. states have averaged more daily cases.
To date, roughly 17 million Americans have received coronavirus diagnoses and more than 307,000 have died. And while Trump has been mostly silent on relief aid to struggling Americans and businesses, he has spent an abundance of time at his private golf course, refusing to accept his failed bid for reelection.
After U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced that the Department of Justice had found no evidence to support the president’s claims of voter fraud, Trump reportedly threatened to fire Barr. He has also denounced Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, among many others, for declining to overturn results which confirm Biden’s victory.
“With the 2020 election over and a litany of lawsuits by the Trump campaign thrown out of state courts, President Trump has turned his back on his duties as president,” said Julian Goldie, CEO of Goldie Agency, which helps companies build better websites.
“He has spent his time disseminating falsehoods and holding rallies to bask in the cheers of his zealots. Throughout his divisive run as president, Trump has disregarded norms, and this lame-duck period is no different,” Goldie added.
Goldie noted that most outgoing presidents take advantage of the time between the election and inauguration by pushing through pet policies, issuing pardons and appeasing super PAC contributors, all the while still performing their job as president.
“Trump’s behavior during this time is odd but the main issue isn’t the rallies – it’s his disregard for fulfilling his presidential responsibilities,” Goldie remarked.
Michael Montgomery, a political scientist who teaches in the Department of Health and Human Services at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the MPA program at Eastern Michigan University, points to two constitutional mechanisms for dealing with a president who is not performing the duties of the office – or not performing those duties properly.
“The first is Impeachment under Article I Section 2. The second is removal for incapacity under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment,” offered Montgomery, who’s also a former U.S. diplomat. “Both mechanisms are effectively inoperative at the current time given that Republicans in his Cabinet and the Senate are at a minimum protecting this president or, in many cases, actively supporting him.
“As long as the party that controls the Senate is willing to put party before country and stand with this president, there is effectively nothing that can be done under our laws and Constitution as they presently stand,” Montgomery said.
In fact, little can be done to force a lame-duck president into action, said Mark J. Rozell, the dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government and Ruth D. and John T. Hazel Chair in Public Policy at George Mason University.
“In theory, Congress could pass multiple bills to send up to the president for his approval or veto, but a lame-duck, divided Congress isn’t a realistic vehicle for pushing large-scale legislation,” Rozell said. ”Barring a crisis or other major event forcing the president to act, it seems that we are stuck with running out the clock on his presidency.”
Michael Goldstein, who has taught Law and Society at Golden Gate University and represented California death row inmates on appeal, sees no way to force Trump to do his job.
“No court would consider interfering, both because of the ‘separation-of-powers’ and ‘political-question’ doctrines and because there is no easily definable test for whether a president is performing his duties,” Goldstein said. “Regarding Congress, the Senate would probably not pass – much less override a veto of – a bill cutting off his salary unless he gets back to work. He claims he is donating his salary to charity in any event.”
Still, Goldstein suggests that Trump’s inaction could be good for the nation. The less Trump is involved in government operations, the more the many people still in the Executive Branch who know what they are doing can stay under the radar and try to do their jobs, Goldstein offered.
“This includes, of course, the public health response to COVID-19 and its special importance to the Black communities, among others,” he said. “I have a fantasy of bold state-level prosecutors intimidating him into more caution around his incendiary election-subversion remarks by charging Trump with their version of what, in my state, would be criminal interference with an executive officer in the performance of his or her duties. That, however, is unlikely to happen and could further inflame his base.
“As to returning to work, the more golf Donald Trump plays between now and Jan. 20, the better off we will all be,” Goldstein added.