US President Donald Trump, to the bewildered horror of many, has dismissed FBI director James Comey in the middle of an investigation about his aides’ ties to Russia. Some even call this situation a constitutional crisis. We have shot Constitutional Law professor Sanford Levinson four very quick questions and received four equally short answers:
Is this a constitutional crisis?
No. The constitutional crisis is having an ignorant narcissist like Donald Trump as President without the opportunity of dismissing him with a vote of no confidence. But the firing itself does not raise serious constitutional problems.
Will this evolve into a constitutional crisis?
It could be transformed into a constitutional crisis if he hesitates to nominate a successor or if the successor is unable to gain Senate confirmation. Furthermore, I am cautiously hopeful that some Republicans will develop sufficient backbone to join Democrats in subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns. Should he fail to honor such a subpoena, that could provoke a constitutional crisis and impeachment.
What could Congress do about it?
Congress has the investigatory power, including subpoena authority, should it choose to use it.
Do you expect it will?
It’s hard these days to have any stable “expectations”. But it would not surprise me if a few Republicans developed some backbone, not least because Trump is threatening to generate an electoral disaster for the Republicans ocme 2018 and, even more certainly, 2020.
Questions by Maximilian Steinbeis