How many people have signed the US Constitution

How much power does Donald Trump have as US President?

The US president is head of state and government at the same time. He is also the chief commander of the US military.

So the president has enormous power in himself. At the same time, the US Constitution stipulates that it is kept in check by Congress and the Supreme Court through the principle of "checks and balances" - that is, through the mutual control of different state organs. But what exactly does that mean?

Management positions and personnel selection

The president can appoint the members of his cabinet. However, the Senate must confirm every minister in office by a simple majority. The president can also dismiss members of the government. He can appoint advisors and employees in the White House without the participation of the Senate.

The President has the right to nominate Supreme Court justices if there is a vacancy in the Supreme Court. For a final appointment, however, a three-fifths majority in the Senate is required: 60 of the 100 senators must vote for a candidate to be appointed as judge. Since the Supreme Court often has the last word on contentious laws and judges are appointed for life, the US president can shape politics by selecting a candidate - well beyond his term of office.

Washington Supreme Court: Life Judge

The President also appoints judges for over 100 other federal courts - whenever someone leaves, because federal judges are also in office for life. For their appointment, however, he only needs a simple majority in the Senate.

Several thousand positions in federal agencies, such as the powerful chairmanship of the US Federal Reserve, are filled by the president. While this is only a fraction of the three million civil government jobs, most of them are management positions.

legislation

The President cannot make laws. Only Congress can do that. But Trump can encourage MPs to introduce his legislative proposals. And through his media presence, the president has enormous influence over what is and what is not on the US political agenda.

The US President has the right of veto and can reject any law passed by Congress. At a normal veto the President sends the law back to Congress with an explanation of his objections within ten days. If afterwards a two-thirds majority is found in both houses, the regulation will still come into force. Vetoes are rare. Usually the president and the majority of Congress agree to amend controversial paragraphs.

Decrees

The president can govern with decrees, which often have the character of a law. With such referrals to federal authorities, Donald Trump has already initiated far-reaching changes, including in immigration policy. International agreements that his government has negotiated, but which the Senate does not want to ratify, can also be put into effect by the President by means of decrees, so-called "Executive Agreements". This is how President Obama signed the Paris Climate Agreement.

White House: govern by decrees

Congress can take action against a presidential order by passing a new law that contradicts the executive order. And citizens, politicians or interest groups can sue if they think a regulation is unconstitutional. The next president can also override a decree of his predecessor with the stroke of a pen.

Foreign policy as an instrument of power

Unlike in domestic politics, where he can be thwarted by Congress, the US president has much more room for maneuver in foreign policy. By deciding with whom and how to maintain international contact, the President sets the direction for US foreign policy. It determines which states will remain or become allies of the USA and which will not. By receiving heads of state or opening embassies, he can legitimize states.

Control of the military and the secret services

The President is the top military leader in the United States. But according to the constitution, the right to declare war on another country rests with Congress alone. In fact, the president and cabinet often decide on military operations. Because if danger seems to be imminent, the US president can start a war without first calling parliament. The so-called "War Powers Resolution" stipulates that the President must inform Congress within 48 hours and obtain the consent of the MPs within 60 days. Congress has retrospectively approved all previous missions of this type - for example the long-term wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All 16 major US intelligence agencies are under the President, including the FBI, NSA, and CIA. He is informed about the current situation on a daily basis.

Use of nuclear weapons

The President is the only one authorized to order the use of US nuclear weapons. When he orders an attack, however, his order goes through several instances: the defense minister contacts the military, the generals then have to pass the order on to subordinates, who then launch the shooting.

US Department of Defense Pentagon: Order to nuclear strike must go through several instances

The example of Richard Nixon shows that ministers could prevent the military from carrying out a nuclear strike. In the final days of his presidency, Nixon drank a lot and was noticeable for his erratic behavior. His secretary of defense instructed all military personnel to forward all Nixon nuclear weapons orders to him or the secretary of state. A legally questionable instruction, but nobody questioned it.

Pardons

The president can pardon people who have been convicted in federal court - he can shorten their sentences or suspend them altogether. For example, President Obama pardoned whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who was found guilty of treason. This does not apply to politicians and federal officials who have been removed from office.

No budget right

While the president has control over the executive, Congress has sovereignty over its funding. In this way, the two chambers of parliament can stop decisions by the president if they refuse to approve the budget. In extreme cases, the authorities simply run out of money to carry out the President's instructions. A government shutdown of this kind was last threatened in October 2013.

Impeachment

If the President's actions are unsustainable from the point of view of Congress or the Cabinet, there are two ways to get him out of office.

First, an impeachment process for misconduct. If the president is guilty of "high treason, corruption, or other serious crime or misdemeanor", he may be removed from office under the US Constitution. For this, the parliamentarians in the House of Representatives would first have to be in favor with a simple majority. Then there would be a hearing procedure in the Senate, at the end of which a two-thirds majority is required to bring about a removal from office.

US Congress on Capitol Hill: Mutual Control

A US president has never left office this way. The proceedings were initiated only three times. The Senate voted against impeachment for Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1999). Richard Nixon voluntarily resigned after the Watergate scandal in 1974 before proceedings against him were opened.

The second possibility of putting a US president outside the door of the White House: He can also be removed from office if the cabinet or Congress, together with the vice president, decide by a simple majority that the president is unable to exercise his rights and To fulfill duties. This is prescribed by the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. The president can object, which the vice-president and ministers or congressmen can object to. In the end, Congress would have to decide the matter. In this case, a two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate would be necessary for a final removal from office.