Top Republican leaders silent after Trump calls for terminating Constitution
Trump's call for termination of the Constitution this weekend was consistent with his unconstitutional attempt at a coup on Jan. 6, 2021. | Julio Cortez/AP

WASHINGTON—Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker wannabe Kevin McCarthy are silent in the wake of Donald Trump’s demand that the Constitution of the United States be terminated. Donald Trump’s outright demand to terminate the U.S. Constitution in order to restore himself to the Oval Office has drawn condemnation from many quarters but notably not from many wealthy corporate moguls who run the fossil fuel, defense, and other industries and have funded extreme right-wing lawmakers for a long time now.

The reactions from Democrats—including President Joe Biden and labor and allied leaders like Teachers President Randi Weingarten—were strong. The few Republicans who did break with their all-too-silent billionaire backers issued only mild critiques.

Parts of the media like to say that Republicans are reluctant to speak out against Trump because they fear the white working-class people who allegedly form a key part of their base and allegedly drive the push for extreme right-wing politics reflected by Trump and the MAGA Republicans. This latest call for terminating the constitution, however, comes from Trump himself, not from his so-called “base.” The powerful corporate and ruling class forces that funded Trump and continue to fund the MAGA Republicans are the ones really behind the attacks on democracy and many of them want to see how people react to outright calls for eliminating the Constitution. These ruling class corporate capitalists continue to fund lawmakers who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, coup attempt at the Capitol.

In his latest threat, via tweet, Trump, who lost to Biden in 2020 by almost eight million popular votes and 74 Electoral College votes, persisted in his lies that the election was stolen. He demanded “termination” of the Constitution because it governs presidential elections and that by terminating it he can he be restored to the White House or the 2020 balloting can be rerun.

His threat by tweet, the first time such a threat was ever made by a former president, much less one who is a declared candidate for that office in the next election follows:

“So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC, & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!” he tweeted. (Capitalization in the original).

And in a fundraising video just days before, Trump claimed the insurrectionists he ordered to invade the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in his last of seven prior attempts to keep power, “have been treated unconstitutionally in my opinion and very, very unfairly, and we’re going to get to the bottom of it.”

There was no election fraud, of course, in a report about Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, that Trump referenced.

President Biden and Weingarten struck back, hard. As of the evening of Dec. 4, Weingarten was the sole union leader to comment, so far. Other strong comments came from incoming House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.

“You cannot only love America when you win,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates, speaking for Biden, concluded in a statement.

“The American Constitution is a sacrosanct document that for over 200 years has guaranteed that freedom and the rule of law prevail in our great country. The Constitution brings the American people together—regardless of party—and elected leaders swear to uphold it.

“It’s the ultimate monument to all of the Americans who have given their lives to defeat self-serving despots that abused their power and trampled on fundamental rights. Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation and should be universally condemned. You cannot only love America when you win.”

Danger to the Republic

Weingarten, a New York City civics teacher who has a law degree, and who is also a Democratic National Committee member, was even tougher. She’s been pounding the pulpit for more than a year against Trump’s seven unsuccessful schemes to reclaim the White House, most notably the Jan. 6, 2021, invasion, insurrection, and coup d’état attempt he ordered his troops to undertake at the U.S. Capitol.

“Donald Trump is a danger to the Republic,” Weingarten declared. “Since he announced his 2024 presidential bid he’s defended sedition, dined with anti-Semites and white supremacists, and now declared the Constitution null and void.’”

Trump officially announced his presidential bid on Nov. 15 and dined with a white supremacist and anti-Semitic “influencer” and anti-Semitic rapper Ye, formerly Kanye West, around Thanksgiving.

“His behavior isn’t merely foolish or erratic, it’s a threat to our country’s very foundations. It flies in the face of laws that govern our way of life and the norms that guarantee we can all live in a free society,” Weingarten continued.

“The president takes an oath of office to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.’ Every president, including Trump, has sworn the oath upon taking office. His call to disavow it is the musing of a power-hungry autocrat whose complete disregard for the rule of law should terrify every one of us.

“These rantings are cut from the same cloth as his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when it’s become increasingly clear he and his acolytes organized and incited a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer of power in violation of the people’s choice in a free and fair election.

“By these latest words and deeds, Trump shows himself once again to be completely unfit to serve in any elected office of the United States.”

Other denunciations, at least from the Democratic side of the aisle, were almost as strong, led by Jeffries and Pascrell. Those few Republicans who spoke out did so only when tough questions prompted them. Their criticism was more muted.

A survey of progressive groups’ and union websites—including the AFL-CIO, but also more outspoken unions—and Twitter feeds, as well as those of the House’s January 6 committee, produced no further reactions yet to Trump’s Dec. 1 tweet on his own social media platform.

“Last week the leader of the Republican Party had dinner with a Nazi leader and a man who called Adolf Hitler ‘great,’” Pascrell tweeted Sunday, referring to Trump’s meetings with white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and with Ye. Trump denied he knew of their anti-Semitism.

Republicans fully embrace fascism

“Yesterday Trump called for throwing out the Constitution and making himself dictator,” Pascrell added. “Republicans’ full embrace of fascism is the story.”

“The Republicans are gonna have to work out their issues with the former president and decide whether they’re gonna break from him and return to some semblance of reasonableness or continue to lean into the extremism, not just of Trump, but of Trumpism,” Jeffries told This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos. “Suspending the Constitution is an extraordinary step, but we’re used to extraordinary statements being made by the former president.”

So are the Republicans. Their milder comments are in line with fear of Trump’s clout and his often violent troops. Republican “leadership,” including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was silent.

McCarthy is the party’s anointed candidate for Speaker when the Republicans take over the House on Jan. 3, with, at this point, 222 seats out of 435. But five of those Republicans have already said they won’t vote for McCarthy because he doesn’t bow and scrape enough to Trump. That’s enough to deny McCarthy the overall majority he needs. Including the five, 31 voted against McCarthy’s candidacy in the GOP leadership balloting. All were Trumpites.

The toughest Republican on Trump was incoming House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio. He vehemently condemned Trump’s remarks and declared Republican voters in 2024 should consider them—and find an alternative.

“There is a political process that has to go forward before anybody is a frontrunner or anybody is even the candidate for the party,” Turner said. “I believe people certainly are going to take into consideration a statement like this as they evaluate a candidate.”

A more typical response came from Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio, who chairs the Republican Governance Group, a group of so-called GOP moderates. He ducked and dodged Stephanopoulos’ queries, finally saying, “I will support whoever the Republican nominee is.” Trump is the current front-runner.

When the incredulous anchor then pressed Joyce to disavow someone who openly wants to overthrow the Constitution, Joyce replied by telling viewers not to take everything Trump says literally.

“He says a lot of things,” Joyce said of Trump. “But that doesn’t mean that it’s ever going to happen. So you got to [separate] fact from fantasy—and fantasy is that we’re going to suspend the Constitution and go backward.”

Latest lawsuit seeks money from Trump

Besides the condemnation of his tweet, Trump faces yet another lawsuit, and this one wants money. It’s from James Blassingame and Sidney Hemby, two of the 140 police officers injured by the 1,000-plus Trumpite U.S. Capitol invaders on Jan. 6, 2021.

The two are suing Trump for compensatory and punitive damages. They won in U.S. District Court in D.C., but Trump appealed the ruling to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals there. He argued his actions basically ordering the insurrection were “within the scope of his presidential responsibilities.” No date is set yet for that hearing.

The response of the two officers, as well as a group of law professors who filed a friend-of-the-court brief backing Blassingame and Hemby, was the legal equivalent of “You’ve gotta be kidding.”

“There is plainly no constitutional or legislative authority for an incumbent president to encourage the violent disruption of a congressional proceeding—especially one constitutionally mandated for the democratic transfer of power,” the professors supporting the two officers wrote.

“And even if a president can attempt to influence the process of counting and certifying electoral votes, that does not mean that he can try to disrupt that process for his personal benefit by force, intimidation, or threat.

“Trump plainly took the alleged actions as a candidate running for president who, having lost the election, was trying to prevent the democratic process mandated by the Constitution from playing out…This is plainly not an ambiguous situation. Trump is not eligible for absolute immunity for his actions as a failed candidate who, for his personal benefit, allegedly encouraged the use of force to prevent Congress from discharging its constitutional duty to certify the election results.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.