How much damage could a crazy POTUS do?

(Hypothetical incoming)

Suppose we elect a new President (feel free to call him “Tronald Dump” for the purposes of this exercise). Once assuming the presidency, he immediately begins to exercise every power available to his office. We’re talking pardoning mass murderers, trying to launch the nukes, ordering drone strikes on political opponents here on US soil, the works. Obviously he can’t just transfer money to his personal bank account, nor can he pass his own draconian laws as Congress has power in those areas.

My question is, what safeguards are in place to prevent the President from acting in these areas? For the sake of argument, let’s assume that he is of sound body and mind and therefore cannot be removed from his post for medical reasons. Impeachment/removal is another avenue that I would like to ignore for the sake of the hypothetical, although it would surely occur rapidly after some of the above incidents.

There are no such safeguards. The safeguards, such as they are, are the ones you told us not to talk about (removal by Cabinet for incapacity, impeachment) or informal (submarine officers refusing the accept launch codes, etc.)

Well, the first of your examples he’s pretty free to do without interference. The rest have some serious safeguards in place to prevent nut jobs from causing too much damage. Most of these date from the latter days of Nixon. Political assassinations are still something that our people don’t do, at least domestically.

ETA: Nerd fight!

Informal safeguards are still safeguards.

Moderator Note

Let’s keep the politics out of GQ.

For the purposes of this exercise, let’s not call him Tronald Dump or any other names or slightly modified names of other candidates either. Let’s just focus on the factual question here, which is what are the options available if a president misbehaves and keep the actual candidate names out of this.

Stick to the facts, please.

I’ll note that while the 25th Amendment gives the VP and cabinet to the power to temporarily remove the President from power in the event that the President is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,” neither the amendment nor any law details exactly what constitutes such an inability.

“The President is unable to discharge his duties because he’s nucking futz” would therefore be an option available to them.

Section 4 of the 25th Amendment famously sets up a possible showdown, where the deposed President can transmit another message saying “no, I’m fine,” and then it’s up to Congress to decide if a disability actually exists. By the times things got that far, though, you’d probably be looking at an impeachment.

For nuke launches, the SecDef has to give the green light, IIRC. Two-man rule.

Well, not really. The OP specified that the POTUS is “of sound mind.”

You don’t have to be of unsound mind to be crazy. The point is, like impeachment, the burden of proof for this process is whatever the body deliberating decides it is.

A rogue President could issue Executive Privilege to impede an investigation into illegal gun running from the U.S. into Mexico and there is nothing we the people can do about it. Until that President is replaced.

The VP and cabinet don’t have to give a specific reason or provide a medical evaluation. All they have to vouch for is that the president is unable to discharge his duties.

I’d like to think that launching drone strikes against domestic political opponents would qualify as an impeachable offense.

Moderator Warning

doorhinge, this is an official warning warning for a political jab in General Questions. This is obviously a reference to Obama’s action with regard to the “Fast and Furious” operation; referring to him as a “rogue president” because of this is a political jab. I just told you to avoid political jabs in this forum.

General Questions Moderator

I would hope that would be one illegal order the military would refuse to carry out.

True. But in the hypothetical the POTUS is discharging his duties, albeit in a crazy way.

The chain of command flows through the Secretary of Defense. The military could refuse orders coming directly from the President as not coming properly through the chain of command. This is one reason Cheney and Bush later pretended that the famous “shoot down order” had come from Bush and was only being relayed by Cheney–the Vice President is not in the chain of command. One can agree or disagree with the shoot-down order, or argue that in exigent circumstances the VP did what had to be done, but the order was nonetheless transmitted from Cheney to the Secretary of Defense, who IS in the chain of command.

If the SecDef transmits an order to kill political opponents, the problem now goes beyond that of a crazy president.

Just because he may be acting within the technical limits of his powers, doesn’t mean he is discharging his duties. In any case, that determination is made only by the VP and cabinet.

Apologies. It was meant as a harmless joke, but feel free to edit my post if you want.

True. But it’s subject to review by Congress.

So, just out of curiosity, is that one warning or two? :p:p

Three, if you count the subheading. :slight_smile: