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After Donald Trump floated the idea of delaying the presidential election last week, the most striking response came from Federalist Society co-founder Steven Calabresi. "This latest tweet is fascistic," the Northwestern University law professor wrote in The New York Times, "and is itself grounds for the president's immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate."
For Calabresi, who opposed Trump's impeachment for pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden, the president's suggestion that the election should be rescheduled was a tweet too far. Whether or not you agree, the bipartisan rejection of Trump's suggestion is a hopeful sign that his blunt self-aggrandizement has reinvigorated concerns about presidents who claim powers they were never granted—a problem that extends far beyond this particular president or his party.
"President Trump needs to be told by every Republican in Congress that he cannot postpone the federal election," Calabresi wrote. "Doing so would be illegal, unconstitutional and without precedent in American history."
While Trump did not explicitly assert that he has the unilateral power to postpone the election, he has unambiguously claimed the authority to withhold congressionally appropriated money from states that allow wide use of mail-in ballots. Such extortion "would be a serious threat to both federalism and separation of powers," notes George Mason law professor Ilya Somin.
Trump's assertion of "total" authority over COVID-19 lockdowns was equally dubious. "Some in the Fake News Media are saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government," he tweeted in April.
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