When Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America, he became the world’s most powerful man as the leader of the world’s most powerful country. Many of his supporters believe he will achieve great things. However, a significant number of his critics believe that, based on his campaign, he could wreak havoc in his four years (or eight!) as president.
The US constitution defined the powers of the presidency and these have been clarified and expanded as the US has grown and changed.
Below is an explanation of six of the most important powers that President Trump has (and will be able to use if he chooses to!)
The US has a huge nuclear arsenal which includes ballistic missiles and bombs carried by aircrafts. The President of the United States has sole control over the nuclear arsenal.
The nuclear command and control system was designed to allow a rapid response in case the Cold War developed into a full-scale war with the Soviet Union. The system was built with lots of checks to prevent sabotage or an accidental launch, but there are no limits on Trump that would stop or constrain his ability to launch nuclear strikes.
Intelligence and counter-terrorism operations
The US intelligence operations includes the CIA, the NSA and other agencies, that, between them, have extensive data-gathering and operational capabilities. All the agencies will report to Trump via the Director of National Intelligence.
In some cases, agencies (in particular the CIA), can take direct action under orders from the president – including the drone programme. Whilst Congress and other parts of the judiciary play a role in providing oversight, the secretive nature of many of the operations means that Trump and his appointees will have significant discretion over the operations that are carried out.
Staffing the federal bureaucracy
The President heads he Executive branch, and this consists of what we in the UK would think of as the Government and its departments. The Executive branch consists of NASA, the military and all the members of the Cabinet along with other agencies. The split between the US Federal and State Government means that most employees (such as teachers) are employed by the state rather than the Federal Government.
Trump is in charge of appointing the most powerful people in the Executive branch (such as the Cabinet secretaries, the undersecretaries and the heads of different departments) which means that he will have significant influence and control over the whole of the Federal Government.
Signing or vetoing legislation
Before any piece of legislation can become law, Trump will need to sign it once the two house of Congress have passed it. Trump can also veto any piece of legislation that has not been passed with a two thirds majority The President must sign any piece of legislation passed by both houses of Congress in order to make it into a law. He can also veto legislation, unless it is passed with a two-thirds majority of both houses.
As President, Trump is mostly in control of the raising or lowering of trade barriers and he can negotiate trade agreements. Given his election campaign focussed on increasing protectionist policies, stopping TPP and TTIP and renegotiating NAFTA, he has significant powers to change global trading patterns.
The ‘bully pulpit’
As the president of the United States, Trump is the most powerful political leader in the world. His statements will be highly influential and he has the capability of shifting global attitudes and events. As we’ve seen already, even Trump’s tweets will be seen around the world and will be analysed by other leaders, politicians and members of the public.