The recent revelation about President Trump’s dealings with Ukrainian President Zelensky have rightly provoked serious concern, especially the possibility that Trump blocked nearly $400 million in military aid to secure help for his re-election campaign .
This has intensified support for impeachment. But taking action against President Trump would only be a partial solution to the problem.
Trump’s actions in this case and in many other situations remind us that the Constitution’s system of checks and balances fails us when it comes to containing presidents who are inclined to misuse their authority. Over and over, Trump has been able to exploit his executive power for personal gain, whether to promote his re-election or to pad his bank account.
And he is not the first chief executive to use the power of the presidency to promote prospects for re-election. For example, as John Hudak has found, the White House typically favors electoral swing states when allocating federal funding. Presidents also have manipulated our policy toward Cuba to woo voters in Florida.
If Congress targets its response only at Trump, it will be doing much more about symptoms than causes of presidential dysfunction. To fully address the problem, Congress needs to adopt major reform of our constitutional system. And while Republican members of the House and Senate have been unwilling to oppose Trump’s excesses, they may be more receptive to an effort to revitalize the Constitution. For more discussion of that point, see here.