'A dictator in the making': Trump biographer slams the president's poor grasp of the Constitution

David Cay Johnston, a journalist and biographer of President Donald Trump, argued Tuesday night that the White House's latest efforts to defy Congress show the president's authoritarian impulses.

In particular, the Trump administration's decision to put off Congress's request for the president's taxes, which the law says the Treasury Department must honor, reveals his intent to skirt lawmakers' oversight capacity.

"What they're doing right now, Chris, is being very careful not to violate that law," Johnston said Tuesday night on CNN with Chris Cuomo. "Charles Rettig, the IRS commissioner, who's a tax lawyer, sent a letter saying they referred this to the Justice Department. Of course, the IRS has its own legal shop. It's called the chief counsel. But all they're doing is trying to avoid directly violating the law which would subject them to the risk of criminal prosecution and prison."

He continued: "They can play this game for a while. ... The Trump administration is clearly saying on every front: 'We are not subject to oversight by Congress.' They actually argue in a legal paper that Congress's oversight function is only limited to writing new laws, which is ridiculous."

"That is ridiculous!" said Cuomo.

"And what you're seeing is a dictator in the making," said Johnston. "This is just brazen 'we're not going to comply.' And you know, as Tony Schwartz, who wrote for Donald 'The Art of the Deal,' and I and some others have been saying for a long time, Donald doesn't know what's in the Constitution. He thinks he's a dictator."

Watch the clip below:

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.