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James Comey and the definition of a ‘constitutional crisis’

May 12, 2017 by Jeffrey Rosen


Writing in The Atlantic, National Constitution Center president and CEO Jeffrey Rosen explores various definitions of a constitutional crisis and how they help us understand President Trump's firing of the FBI director.

In this excerpt from the full article, Rosen concludes that the situation may not qualify as a crisis just yet:

“Whether or not Trump’s firing of Comey evolves into a constitutional crisis ultimately depends on what happens next. If Trump publicly refuses to obey a legal order from Congress or the Senate or a special prosecutor, that unprecedented defiance would qualify as our first type one constitutional crisis since the ratification of the Constitution itself. If, to invent a sweeping hypothetical, evidence emerged of treasonous conduct toward Russia by Trump in office—the paradigmatic impeachable offense—Congress refused to impeach, and the states responded by sending militias on Washington, that would be a type three constitutional crisis. And if disagreement about how to resolve the Russia investigation led to civil war between red states and blue states, that would be a type two constitutional crisis. At the moment, however, we have constitutional conflict without a constitutional crisis, and for that merciful reality we can be thankful.”

To read the full article, visit The Atlantic.

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