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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Key questions of power and liberty buffet U.S. body politic

Barry Berke, left, House Judiciary Committee majority counsel,

Barry Berke, left, House Judiciary Committee majority counsel, questions former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski at a hearing Tuesday. Photo Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite

During this Constitution Week, members of Congress rebuked the executive branch over stonewalling a House committee's inquiries.

A presidential push to suppress California's separate air regulations had progressives invoking the constitutional rights of states.

Also, the Trump administration publicized plans to raid $3.6 billion in military funds for a border wall that Congress, as budget-maker, declined to fund.

One might say the Constitution is having a rough Constitution Week. This annual commemoration began in 1955 at the behest of the Daughters of the American Revolution and runs through today.

President Donald Trump, who sometimes hugs the flag, displays little if any reverence for the founding document he's sworn to uphold. 

Last week, Trump joked at a rally that he'd still be in office in 2026, when the United States co-hosts the World Cup. This would require him to serve a third term — which the 22nd Amendment prohibits.

Birthright citizenship is enshrined in the 14th Amendment. Trump takes the unconventional stance that this could be reversed without a constitutional amendment. No such move has been made.

Go ahead and bump some MS-13 suspects' heads on cars, Trump once joked to cops gathered on Long Island. The line sounded popular and sentimentally correct, but police and other adult citizens know that obeying him wouldn't be legal.

Reasonable searches per the Fourth Amendment? Trump pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio who defied federal court orders to stop abusing his office in personal pursuit of people in the country illegally.

Trump warned that Democrats would kill the Second Amendment. They can't. Constitutional changes require a rigorous congressional process and must be ratified by three quarters of the states.

Trump's expressed ignorance, or cynicism, apparently goes deeper. In July, he dropped this gem: "I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president."

Wrong. That article prescribes executive powers, but Articles I and III empower the Congress and the judiciary, offsetting his ability to "do whatever" he wants.

Not that the Trump camp creates all the constitutional conflagration. Far from it.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke drew criticism in the name of the Second Amendment when he emotionally declared in the last debate: "Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47."

Until 2004, the U.S. Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 barred the manufacture for civilians of certain semiautomatic firearms and large-capacity magazines. The law survived court challenges, but Congress declined to renew it.

Some Democrats are talking about abolishing the Electoral College that put Trump in the presidency although he lost the popular vote. That, too, cannot skirt a rigorous ratification process.

The Trump administration's efforts to finesse or crush hostile inquiries from the Democratic-controlled House mark the highest stakes constitutional fight of the moment. These queries could precede impeachment depending on what's revealed.

Courts will decide how long the White House can keep key Trump allies who factored in the Mueller probe from testifying before the Judiciary Committee.

Will the Constitution, signed in 1787, prevail? That's a perennial question for each generation to answer its own way.


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