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The Unconstrained Presidency

Checks and Balances Eroded Long Before Trump

Trump at a rally in Florida, July 2018. Carlos Barria / Reuters

In the age of Donald Trump, it often feels as though one individual has the power to chart the United States’ course in the world all by himself. Since taking office as U.S. president, Trump has made a series of unilateral decisions with enormous consequences. He walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris agreement on climate change, and the Iran nuclear deal. He imposed tariffs on Canada, China, Mexico, and the European Union. In June, he single-handedly upended the G-7 summit by insulting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and withdrawing the United States from the group’s joint communiqué. In July, his European travels produced more diplomatic fireworks, with a NATO summit in Brussels that raised questions about his commitment to the organization—before his deferential press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Each choice has brought howls of outrage—but little real pushback. Congress, for example, has

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