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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Trump is giving us a real-time lesson in how democracies die

President Trump outside the White House
President Trump speaks to members of the media outside the White House on Monday.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: President Trump once said, “Article II allows me to do whatever I want.” This statement about the powers granted to him by the Constitution is not true, of course, yet the president repeatedly asserts dictatorial authority. (“How autocracy takes hold in Trump’s America,” Opinion, Jan. 15)

Article I of our Constitution created a legislature and defined its powers and duties. It contains an impeachment clause, anticipating the damage that could be done to our democracy by a power-hungry president. Article I makes very clear that the legislature has the duty to oversee the executive branch.

Article II created and defined the powers of the presidency. It says nothing about “executive privilege” as a prerogative of the president to withhold vital information from Congress.

Trump publicly misrepresenting Article II, claiming he has the power to do anything that he wants, subverts the very essence of our Constitution, which is the balance of power between the three branches of government. If people accept Trump’s falsehood that the president has primacy over the Congress and the judiciary, then the Constitution will have been shredded once and for all and an imperial presidency proclaimed.

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This is how democracies die. We cannot let this stand.

Don Rowland, Camarillo

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To the editor: It’s time to admit that the widely anticipated Trump dictatorship never materialized.

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Despite his idiotic threats, the president didn’t do mass deportations in the manner of 1930s Germany. He didn’t try to “open up” libel laws or shut down newspapers. He didn’t lock up Hillary Clinton.

Op-ed article writer Wayne Sandholtz sees looming autocracy in the Senate’s refusal to go along with impeachment (surprise!) and what the Supreme Court might or might not do about executive immunity. Serious stuff, but hardly reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution or the Gulag.

Michael Smith, Georgetown, Ky.

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To the editor: Sandholtz illustrates clearly how our democracy is endangered when the legislative and judicial branches of government absolve themselves of checking the executive’s power.

Let’s not forget, however, that ultimately it is the electorate that determines if a president with autocratic ambitions will succeed in undermining our form of government.

I see more and more Americans fall under the thrall of Trump and wonder if they are simply too complacent to see the dangers ahead. Giving all powers to a strongman encourages the electorate to stop informing themselves on important issues and become morally lazy and corrupt.

Isabelle H. Meyer, Glendale

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To the editor: Sandholtz’s article should be taken to heart by those who aren’t seriously concerned about the president.

Trumpism is a complete repudiation of the pesky constitutional policy of separation of powers, a feature of our government that is supposed to rein in autocratic intent. It claims that anything negative reported about Trump is fake news. As such, only what Trump says can be believed.

It’s the use of what Trump’s attorney general calls the “unitary executive” theory to justify undertaking any action he wants, unrestrained by the Constitution or federal laws. We had rejected this when Richard Nixon said that if the president does something, it is not illegal.

Benjamin Franklin famously told the fledgling nation after the Constitution was finalized that we had “a republic, if you can keep it.” Can we?

Bruce N. Miller Playa del Rey


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