The 20th Amendment (article 1) of the US Constitution states that

The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3d day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.

However, the time itself is not a fixed notion. Twice a year it suffers from gaps/overlaps when we change to/from the Daylight Saving Time. So, presume a hypothetical situation where a President announces the new "president saving time" such that on the 20th of January at 11am the clock moves forward by 2 hours. Thus, the next moment after 10:59:59am is 1:00:00pm. The noon does not occur on that particular day. Correspondingly, he claims, his presidency failed to end according to the 20th Amendment, and in fact can now continue forever.

A slightly less extreme version could be to move the time backwards on the same day: from 1pm to 11am. Then the noon would occur twice, forcing the incoming president's term to end almost immediately after it began.

Is such action even possible (presuming the President does not care about any public outrage/political fallout)? What mechanisms exist to protect against such abuse?

closed as off-topic by JonathanReez Supports Monica, Rick Smith, JJ for Transparency and Monica, Denis de Bernardy, David Richerby May 31 at 10:57

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave these specific reasons:

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    Please see What types of questions should I avoid asking?, To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where ... you are asking an open-ended, hypothetical question: “What if ______ happened?” You are asking readers to presume a hypothetical situation ... This question appears to be off-topic. – Rick Smith May 31 at 2:49
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    Interestingly, Roman politicians used to do what the OP proposes, and the Julian calendar and one reason for the introduction of the Julian calendar was to prefent that kind of abuses. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Pere May 31 at 18:13
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    For the anecdote, there actually is a precedent for this: after losing patience with the first Protectorate Parliament, Cromwell took a few liberties with the letter of the law and dissolved it after 5 lunar months. See revolutionspodcast.com/2013/12/… for details. – Denis de Bernardy Jun 2 at 17:11
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    Considering that not all states observe daylight savings time and there are 6+ time zones in the country that is going to be a lot harder than you think. – Joe W Jun 3 at 12:52


This is like asking if the President can change the meaning of the words in the constitution by redefining English.

The words "noon" "20" "day" and "January" have common meanings. Playing games with "President Saving Time" has no effect on this reality.

The President may, in this situation, have to be removed by force. There is nothing in the constitution describing this, but it is implicit in all forms of government that the President is only the President because enough people with enough guns are willing to support him. If the people with guns decided that the one in the White House was not the president anymore, he or she wouldn't last long, and it matters not what the Constitution says.

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    Despite our Congress' failings, I am fairly confident it would impeach a President for attempting to illegitimately extend their term. A citizen uprising would only be necessary if they failed to do so. – jpmc26 May 31 at 10:51
  • @jpmc26 I'm not sure what you mean. They'd impeach if say, this week, he tried to set up President Saving time? Or they'd impeach if he lost the 2020 election and refused to step down on 20 January, 2021? The latter could be problematic: legally, he wouldn't be the president, so surely he couldn't be impeached? – David Richerby May 31 at 11:01
  • @jpmc26 "Despite our Congress' failings, I am fairly confident it would impeach a President for attempting to illegitimately extend their term." I wonder about that. What would they do if Barr or Mnuchin refused to comply with a subpoena in order to obstruct congressional oversight? – John May 31 at 21:59

The president does not have authority to change the observance of civil time. This is specified by statute. Congress can change it without the president (if it votes to override a veto), but the president cannot do it without congress.

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    That raises the question of whether congress can abuse the rules to stay in power indefinitely. – Andrew Grimm May 31 at 5:08

What mechanisms exist to protect against such abuse?

The U.S. constitution deliberately sets up three branches of government as checks and balances on each other. The Supreme Court could be asked to rule on the interpretation of the text of the 20th Amendment. Or if Congress understand the president to be deliberately violating the constitution, that would be grounds for impeachment.

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    And the Supreme Court would surely rule that the dates are reckoned according to the calendar that was in use at the time when that particular part of the Constitution was enacted. – David Richerby May 31 at 11:02

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