William Cooper writes an opinion piece published at CNN asking if Trump would be a dictator if relected. Some nuggets:

“…A dictator dictates the workings of government. Merriam Webster defines a dictator as “one holding complete autocratic control: a person with unlimited governmental power.” This is what Trump will want to achieve. But he won’t get anywhere near “complete autocratic control” over American government.


The presidential pardon power isn’t broad enough to preemptively immunize widespread criminal activity; political appointees must be confirmed by a majority of the Senate (which would reject Trump’s worst co-conspirators); and the majority of federal officials serve across presidential administrations in a large, powerful and entrenched bureaucracy.

The federal bureaucracy can’t simply be “purged.” Valid federal legislation authorizes and funds government agencies — and powerful unions protect their workers — so the courts won’t allow federal employees to be fired en masse absent duly enacted legislation. Republican presidents have long tried to shrink the administrative state. They’ve failed miserably.

The Department of Justice moreover, didn’t go after Trump’s enemies the last time he was president. To the contrary, the department rejected Trump’s demands to prosecute former President Barack Obama, then-former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former FBI Director James Comey, former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and others.

The Justice Department did, however, prosecute many of Trump’s friends. Roger Stone was convicted of lying to Congress and threatening a witness. Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in 2017 and asked to withdraw his guilty plea in 2020. Steve Bannon was charged with defrauding investors in his campaign to build a wall at the southern border. Paul Manafort was convicted of tax fraud. And Tom Barrack was acquitted at trial of foreign lobbying charges. Trump eventually pardoned FlynnBannonStone and Manafort. But the Department of Justice’s lawyers had zealously prosecuted these men.

To imprison his enemies, Trump would need grand juries to indict on his command, courts to rule in his favor and juries to render his chosen verdicts.

The president of the United States doesn’t have power over these things. Grand juries operate under the supervision of the federal courts, not the executive branch. Federal judges sit for life subject to impeachment from Congress. And the only authorities with the power to affect a jury verdict are the trial judge and the appellate courts.

Trump-appointed judges, all confirmed by a majority of the Senate, have shifted the federal courts sharply to the right. But they have also shown their independence and ruled against Trump repeatedly. The Supreme Court allowed a New York prosecutor to receive Trump’s tax returns, denied Trump’s effort to end DACA and rejected Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The Senate, furthermore, still has to confirm, by majority vote, all executive-level presidential appointments (including at the Department of Justice). Trump can’t just appoint, for example, Rudy Guliani as attorney general, Steve Bannon as secretary of defense or Michael Flynn as secretary of state. And pardons only apply to federal offenses, offer no protection under state law and may be voided in court if they are preemptive and not specific. They are hardly a license to go about committing major crimes. Just look at Bannon, who was pardoned by Trump in his border wall case and later convicted for refusing to cooperate with the January 6 committee in Congress.

Unlike a dictator, Trump wouldn’t control most government activity — at the federal, state or local level. If the Democrats take the House in 2024, would Trump control how they vote on legislation? Would he force state court judges to govern how he wants them to? Local school boards?

No way. To be a dictatorship, people have to actually do the things the dictator says. Given his historic unpopularity ratings, the resistance to a second Trump term will likely be fierce at every level of government.

The one way Trump could actually achieve a dictatorship is if he commandeered the military to use force — or its threat — throughout the country on his behalf. But there’s no reason whatsoever to think he could pull that off. Trump has long had strained relations with military leaders, including his secretaries of defense John Mattis and Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.

As we saw with Milley — who actively opposed Trump’s attempt to reverse the 2020 presidential election results — military leaders won’t just obey Trump’s illegal initiatives. The military doesn’t “take an oath to a wannabe dictator,” Milley said in his departing speech last September. “We take an oath to the Constitution and we take an oath to the idea that is America — and we’re willing to die to protect it.”


Trump would have an ironclad grip on some things, such as international diplomacy and statehouses dominated by his loyalists. He would have some control in other areas, such as executive branch policies and initiatives. And he’d have little to no control over everything else, such as the daily workings of the state courts and Democrat-run state governments.

Full article: Opinion: Would Trump be a dictator in a second term? No, but he would be a disaster

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