- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2016

Donald Trump may have promised to nominate jurists to the Supreme Court who have an originalist view of the Constitution, but the Republican presidential nominee’s own constitutional aptitude was put under the microscope this week as conservatives gathered to celebrate the founding document.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, delivered the keynote address at the two-day Constitution Day celebration hosted by Hillsdale College at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel.

Mr. Sessions said Mr. Trump’s policy prescriptions indicate an underlying understanding of the Constitution’s limits on federal power.

“I think he’s fundamentally respectful of the way of the federal government and respectful of the limits that the Constitution places on the government,” the senator told The Washington Times following his address Wednesday evening. “His policies, like ending the unconstitutional executive amnesty, I think his commitment to ending the federal takeover of health care, and to defend America first, those are all consistent with sound constitutional principles.”

Mr. Sessions’ speech detailed a litany of ways the Constitution has been undermined in the Obama administration, ranging from the outgrowth of an unaccountable administrative state to a judicial philosophy that prizes ideology over fidelity to the meaning of law.

Jonah Goldberg, senior editor of National Review and a member of the “Never Trump” movement, agreed with that assessment on a panel discussion the following day.

But he said acknowledging the flagrant usurpation of the rule of law does not require one to support Mr. Trump in the presidential race. He said proponents of the real estate mogul are committing what he called the “and therefore Trump” fallacy.

“When they get to the point of the argument where they say, ‘And therefore, Donald Trump should be president of the United States,’ I am utterly and completely baffled by it,” Mr. Goldberg said. “And I was baffled by it during the primaries, and I remain baffled now.”

Mr. Goldberg said Mr. Trump doesn’t give “a rat’s patoot about the Constitution,” pointing to remarks from the businessman that indicate an ignorance of the document, such as Mr. Trump’s reported suggestion that there are 12 articles, rather than seven.

“His core values, as he says over and over again, are strength and winning,” Mr. Goldberg said. “Getting him to talk about the Constitution is like getting my daughter to eat Brussels sprouts. I mean, she’ll do it, but it’s not a pretty picture, and she tries to get it over with as quickly as possible.”

However, John Marini, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada-Reno and a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, came to Mr. Trump’s defense, saying the businessman’s status as an outsider gives him the unique ability to realign the branches of government.

“Trump is completely an outsider,” Mr. Marini said. I don’t think it would be possible for anyone to come up through the Republican Party and do what Trump has done.”

“You’ll see the Congress and the bureaucracy and the Washington establishment find powers in the Constitution for their own branch and their own authority that they simply overlooked for the past 25 years,” he added. “You’ll see real separation of powers. It doesn’t work right now.”

And Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, said despite Mr. Trump’s idiosyncrasies, there is evidence of a consistent belief in the significance of the rule of law spanning the businessman’s career.

“I will tell you, Trump is systematic that the laws need to be made in the Congress and signed by the president or they’re not really laws,” Mr. Arnn said. “And that looks to me like it gets very close to the heart of the matter.”

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