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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Trump's stated disrespect for the Constitution signals trouble

Details of the Trump administration's dubious dealings in Eastern Europe are piling up. 

As they do, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham caricatures the House impeachment inquiry as a plot by "radical" presidential foes "waging war against the Constitution."

Perhaps this rebuke could be taken more seriously if President Donald Trump ever showed a convincing fidelity to what the Constitution says.

Instead, Trump's displays of disrespect for the founding document pile up — along with testimony that he used U.S. clout to get a foreign government in a way that could help him crush a Democratic challenge.

Presidential actions have raised Constitutional debate before.

What's different with Trump is his growing derision for the whole subject.

Say what you will, Congress has the power to carry out an impeachment inquiry. But with apparent self-pity, Trump on Tuesday called it a "lynching."

Just a day earlier he referred to the Constitution's clause against taking privileges and payments from foreign leaders as "phony." That's because his decision to award the location of the G-7 international conference to his own golf resort appeared to violate it.

Trump backed off the self-deal under pressure from fellow Republicans.

"I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president," he said recently. 

In fact, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department gave careful consideration to Trump's special privileges as president when exploring ways he tried and failed to deflect or kill the Russia probe.

"With respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution," the report said, "we concluded that Congress has authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice."

Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said the other day that Trump can let politics influence foreign policy. But in Ukraine mess, the difference between executing U.S. foreign policy and cutting side deals to serve Trump becomes a Constitutional issue. 

Before taking office, Trump showed no aversion to Constitutional limits on executive power — or blithely calling for his immediate predecessors to be impeached.

Five years ago, Trump slammed President Barack Obama's executive orders aimed at changing immigration policy without Congressional approval. Since then Trump has done the same.

Back then, Trump said on TV that Obama couldn’t make a deal on immigration — and so “now he has to use executive action, and this is a very, very dangerous thing that should be overridden easily by the Supreme Court."

 “We’re looking now at a situation that should absolutely not pass muster in terms of constitutionality," Trump claimed.

He even argued that Obama “certainly could be impeached” for it.

And six years earlier, Trump said that impeaching President George W. Bush over Iraq “would have been a wonderful thing" for then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to do.

How things change.

The 14th Amendment pretty clearly gives citizenship to anyone born here. But a year ago, Trump said he'd been advised he could do away with that right "with an executive order."

He must know he can't, because he has not tried.

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