Irene North


Revisiting a president’s desire to destroy the Constitution

Each day, Americans are faced with the reality of the Trump Administration’s desire to take away our rights or threatening our welfare in some way. On April 30, one of his surrogates, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, said the president is still consideringopening up” the libel laws.

Donald Trump stated many times in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, he planned to change the law so he could sue people, particularly over things he didn’t like. He has said this so many times in conjunction with “fake news,” his followers now believe anything you disagree with is fake and shouldn’t be spoken or written.

On the contrary, questioning policies holds politicians accountable. It is our duty to speak the truth and question those in Washington.

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.

— Theodore Roosevelt, The Kansas City Star, 7 May 1918

It is evident Trump doesn’t know a president can’t just change the U.S. Constitution. According to Article V of the United States Constitution, amendments can be proposed by Congress or by a constitutional convention.

There are four paths the amendment can take:

  • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
  • Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
  • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
  • Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times)

By Congress:

1 The proposed amendment needs to be written by legislators.

2 A two-thirds majority of support – 290 representatives and 67 senators – is required from both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

3 The proposed amendment must be introduced through a joint resolution. It is then printed and reviewed by congressional committee(s).

4 After being approved by the committee(s), debate ensues.

5 Two-thirds of both houses must approve the resolution.

By Constitutional Convention:

1 The proposed amendment is introduced to state legislatures.

2 A bill needs to be introduced calling for a constitutional convention.

3 Each state must approve the bill and file an application with Congress.

4 Two-thirds, or 34 states, must submit an application Congress.

5 Constitutional law experts are consulted.

6 How the constitutional convention would operate needs to be determined.

7 The amendment is drafted and approved.

Regardless of how the amendment was proposed, it must be ratified by three-fourths, or 38, of the state legislatures. The amendment specifies whether it is by the state legislature or a state convention. The 21st Amendment, which repealed prohibition, is the only amendment passed by convention.

The amendment becomes law once it is ratified.

Only once has the Constitution been repealed, in 1933, with the 21st Amendment repealing the 18th. The only way to repeal an amendment is to go through this entire process.

The president has no power in this process. Presidents can, however, participate in the signing process of the amendment’s certification to symbolize unity or trust in the process.

What is baffling is Congress is not addressing this fact. They are allowing the uninformed citizenry to believe the president holds powers he clearly does not. It is dividing the American people and damaging the free state.

If you ban speech you don’t like to read or hear, what happens when someone suddenly doesn’t like what you have to say or write?

This is why we must understand the Constitution and fight to protect it. It is also why it is so hard to change the Constitution. We can’t let the law of our land be in constant flux, changing with the whims of whomever is in power.

The first amendment is first because it’s the most important.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

“Freedom of speech is the purpose of the United States of America,” said Keith Olbermann. “This is about fear. It is about shutting down your speech.”

What he would stop is dissent. What he would create…is invoking fear inside you. A hesitation before you protest, or spoke out or wrote or tweeted or posted a comment online. That moment in which you ask yourself, is this going to get me sued?

Ask yourselves, if Barack Obama had proposed changing libel laws to put people in jail who said or wrote things he didn’t like, would you have been okay with that? Your answer should be no, regardless of who sits in the oval office.

When pressed, Priebus shifts to the news about Russia he doesn’t like. When he’s pressed further Priebus talks about printed newspapers. Trump does not like when he is caught lying or when the press holds him accountable. Trump doesn’t want anyone to hear anything negative about him.

In the 240-year history of the United States of America, the 18th Amendment was the only one that attempted to restrict our rights. We repealed it.

While he has no power to change the Constitution, this is clearly a threat from Trump. It needs to be taken seriously.

If you ever abolish the first, the people will use the second.


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