It is easy to become numb to the many stories about President Donald Trump.

 

However, Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey shows he has little understanding of the separation of powers and the will of the Founding Fathers to block chief executives from gaining too much power.

In 1772, John Adams warned that the “only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson listed 27 specific grievances against the monarch King George III as reasons a new nation was needed.

When George Washington became the nation’s first president, there were calls for him to be king but he rejected any suggestion that the United States should have an executive with unlimited power.

The entire basis of the United States government was built on the idea of the dispersion of power — not its accumulation in the hands of one person.

Although most presidents seek to increase their influence and authority, Trump presents the danger of crippling our system of checks and balances.

he will say anything

He seems willing to say or do anything to promote or protect himself with little regard for the long-term national interest.

As a nation of “laws and not men,” the judicial branch acts as a critical barrier to unrestricted executive and legislative power.

When Trump’s two executive orders on his travel ban for visitors from six nations were halted in federal courts, the president did not just say he disagreed strongly with the decisions (which is his right).

He instead attacked the legitimacy of the federal court system by describing a federal jurist as a “so called judge” and then threatening to eliminate the entire 9th Circuit because he disagreed with its decisions regarding his presidential authority.

The Department of Justice is a bulwark against concentrated power.

While it is in the executive branch, the Justice Department represents the United States in judicial matters. Trump knew that the FBI was investigating his campaign and its possible connection with Russia. He just grew frustrated with the oversight and fired Comey.

It is now being reported that Trump asked Comey to end the investigation of Michael Flynn, his National Security adviser who lied about his conversations with Russian officials. Trump also apparently had earlier asked the FBI director for his personal loyalty.

FBI agents like other federal appointees take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and not an individual president.

When investigations of the executive branch are in process, the president needs to back away and not insert himself to block any oversight. These actions may constitute a criminal charge of obstruction of justice.

Due to his appalling lack of knowledge about the basics of American government, Trump will continue to steer our federal government into new crises because he does not understand the limitations of his position.

As all good populists do, Trump will appeal to his supporters to back him no matter what.

The nation may have to face the choice of supporting Trump or preserving the brilliance of the founders by checking the power of a person who thus far has shown he is uniquely unqualified to be the president.

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Matt Corrigan is chair and professor of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration of the University of North Florida.