For the last five years, I’ve insisted—somewhat tongue in cheek—that the Trump administration has been a boon for law professors. For four rollicking years, teaching constitutional law was a bit like Law and Order—every topic was literally ripped from the headlines. Imagine preparing to teach Dred Scott and the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment only to learn that that very morning the President had floated the notion of getting rid of birthright citizenship! Kismet!
And that was hardly the only Trump administration windfall. Remember the first Trump impeachment? The one about Ukrainian phone calls and the threat of a Russian invasion? Well, while the Senate was debating the meaning of quid pro quo, I was expanding my Spring 2020 constitutional law syllabus to include coverage of impeachment and other methods of checking presidential authority. Score!
And the hits kept coming. In January 2021, as the spring semester was starting, I figured I would trim back my coverage of impeachment to devote teaching time to other pressing constitutional law issues. After all, what were the odds that a president would be impeached twice in fifteen months? Actually…they were pretty good. Imagine my surprise when the events of January 6, 2021 led to the second Trump impeachment—and yet another opportunity to consider whether the Constitution provides meaningful restraints on presidential authority. Spoiler: it does not.