To what degree can Donald Trump reshape the office of the presidency and transform America’s place in the world? Is the Trump presidency an outlier or the shape of things to come?

USSC Senior Fellow Charles Edel addresses these critical questions in a new report released today by the United States Studies Centre.

A former advisor to the US Secretary of State and associate professor of strategy and policy at the US Naval War College, Edel explores the history of the office of the US president, outlines the limits of presidential power, and explains the unique stress test the office is being subjected to under President Trump.

Edel looks beyond the latest controversies in order to examine which features of the American presidency will endure, which old debates are likely to resurface, and what effect Trump will have on America’s system of checks and balance.

“While all American presidents are both empowered and constrained by the office, what is different in the Trump administration is the seeming instability emanating from the White House,” Edel concludes. “This turbulence has, and will, continue to subject the integrity of America’s political system and position in the world to a stress test.”

Key points

  • Five critical factors determine the outward limits of a president’s power: broader historical circumstances; the president’s political standing; dynamics between the different branches of the government; the president’s ability to drive the executive branch of government; and the president’s personality.
  • One year into Donald Trump's presidency, there are signs pointing to both the resilience of the American political system and to the corrosive effect Trump’s actions have had on it.
  • Because the president is ultimately less constrained in foreign policy than in domestic affairs, Trump’s presidency will continue to cause international concern by its very unpredictability.

View or download the report

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