The president hasn't ever shied away from praising dictators with his words, most recently when
Trump praised Chinese president Xi Jinping's action to make himself president for life.
"He's now president for life. President for life. No, he's great," Trump said of
Xi working to eliminate term limits on China's presidency. "And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day." Trump has praised multiple authoritarian leaders before, from saying Putin has "very strong control" over his country to saying Egyptian strongman leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi did a "fantastic job in a very difficult situation" in his home country. Trump has also made numerous comments about the American system that indicate that he himself has dictatorial tendencies, like when he has suggested that freedom of the press should be limited or even, recently, that guns should be taken without due process of law. While the left generally responded positively to the suggestion, Fox News' Tucker Carlson didn't agree.
“Imagine if Barack Obama had said that? ‘Just ignore due process and confiscating guns.’ Obama would have been denounced as a dictator,”
Carlson said about Trump's comments on gun control. “Congress would be talking impeachment right now. Someone would be muttering about secession.”
Beyond just words, whether a joke like the Xi comment or more serious like the comments about taking away guns, the U.S. president has moved into a very dictatorial realm in terms of his actions as well. Here are a few of the instances in which Trump's actions have shown his dictatorial tendencies.
Refusing To Release His Tax Returns
It's been an unwritten rule since the Ford administration that
presidents release their tax returns, so that the American people can see what interests they are beholden to. Trump lied about his reasons for not releasing them and has still refused to do so, which means that he's still running afoul of this particular democratic norm.
Trump has shown that he did not believe that this tradition applied to him, and so the nation still doesn't know where his most important investments are and how his foreign and tax policies might be enriching himself.
Refusing To Give Up His Company
Installing His Family Members In His Administration
Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Pardoning A Supporter Of His
Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Sending Family Members To Represent The Country Overseas
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Beyond just appointing family members to positions of power, Trump has also bypassed the normal bureaucracy to have his family members represent the country's interests overseas.
His son-in-law Jared Kushner, for example, took a
trip to Saudi Arabia in October of 2017 without any State Department representatives, and Ivanka Trump headed up the U.S. delegation at the end of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games — while also making time to hold a diplomatic meeting with South Korean president Moon Jae In.
In a normal administration, these meetings would be led by State Department officials, possibly even the Secretary of State. Trump, however, has demonstrated that he, like many dictators, only trusts his immediate family members to carry out business like this.
Blocking His Critics On Twitter
Trump uses Twitter as one of his main methods of communicating with the American people, and yet the
White House admitted that he blocks critics on that platform.
Legal scholars have argued that this amounts to a violation of the First Amendment, because while supporters are allowed to speak freely in the public forum that Twitter is, critics are not.
Firing The Man Investigating Him
Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images Trump fired former FBI director James Comey in May of 2017, and then he publicly admitted that he did it in order to relieve the building pressure coming from the investigation into his dealings with Russia.
This move didn't end up working out in Trump's favor, because it led to the
beginning of Robert Mueller's special investigation into the same issue. It showed the extent to which Trump was willing to go to protect his own interest at the expense of the country's, though, and he has later made multiple comments threatening to fire other individuals involved in the investigation, including recused Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
These offenses have all happened before the halfway point on Trump's first term as president — we can only wait and see how the next almost three years will add to the list.