In an interview with Axios this morning, Donald Trump suggested that the United President is above the Constitution of the United States. Trump told the outlet that he was considering an executive order to end birthright citizenship, a right guaranteed under the 14th Amendment.
“It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump stated incorrectly. As scholars of seventh-grade social studies are aware, the Constitution cannot be amended without the approval of a two-thirds vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a convention of states called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures. Neither of these scenarios is plausible.
Moreover, an executive order to amend the Constitution would be quickly struck down by the Supreme Court in a 9-0 ruling. Such an executive action would be particularly objectionable to noted textualist and Trump appointee, Neil Gorsuch.
“You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they’re saying I can do it just with an executive order.” Trump incorrectly stated. It is unclear who the “they” is to whom Trump is referring, but no one with a law degree or a basic understanding of the Constitution would offer such advice. It is not clear whether Trump has taken basic civics classes.
What is evident here, however, is that Trump is threatening to do something he is completely incapable of doing in an effort to stoke his base ahead of the midterms by appealing to their racist fears, a particularly odious political strategy in the wake of a mass shooting on Saturday perpetrated by a virulent anti-Semitic man who had a particular objection to HIAS, an organization that works with refugees.
However, as the 14th Amendment affords citizenship in America by virtue of birth, it is unclear how citizenship could be obtained in the absence of the Amendment. In fact, were Trump to get his way — which, again, is impossible — it could have unintended consequences for some Trump supporters. For instance, it could leave open the possibility of future Presidents to reject the citizenship applications of children of white nationalists, Nazis, or others who hold values counter to the American ethos.