During his speech on a campaign rally in North Carolina, Trump said,

“You can’t have this guy as your president… You can’t have… maybe I’ll sign an executive order, you cannot have him as your president.”

Apparently, Trump thinks that an executive order could stop his opponent from either being a candidate or from being elected.

Does the US President have this right? If so, what kind of an executive order could that be?

  • 1
    The POTUS can do pretty much anything, and then have the Courts decide if it's legal. He can also nominate members of the Supreme Court, which the Senate needs to confirm. I presume your question assumes a more "standard" interpretation of constitutional powers? Or is it about a somewhat plausible worst case scenario?
    – Peter
    Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 0:18
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    I'm voting to close this as encouraging opinion-based answers. Really, there's just no point in trying to analyze every little thing Trump says. Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 0:27

1 Answer 1


An executive order isn't that complicated: it's basically just the president telling people to do something.

Executive orders are simply presidential directives issued to agents of the executive department by its boss.

Brian R. Dirck (2007). The Executive Branch of Federal Government: People, Process, and Politics, p.102

So could the President issue an executive order which declared himself President for Life? Sure – that would be called a coup, and what happened next would depend on whether people chose to follow that order and support the coup, or reject it.

Technically, the Supreme Court has held that Executive Orders must be rooted either in powers granted by Article II of the Constitution or statutes passed by Congress, but ultimately that decision comes down to individual people who will have to decide whether to follow such an order or disobey.

  • Could he issue an executive order for the arrest of an individual?
    – nick012000
    Commented Sep 25, 2020 at 4:03
  • Same answer as above
    – James K
    Commented Sep 26, 2020 at 8:21
  • I am not sure in it, but it would not be a coup. Coup must be violent. It would be just an order contradicting the law and and the constitution, making it invalid. There are priorities in the legal system, roughly so: orders (by president, or cabinet members) < law < constitution. I.e. executive order can not order something against law, no law can be against the constitution and so on. This order would be simply not executed. Of course there would be also political consequences against the reigning president writing hilarious orders.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Jan 23, 2021 at 7:54
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    @GreySheep That’s not true. There’s no requirement for a coup to be violent (think of palace coups), just illegal.
    – divibisan
    Commented Jan 23, 2021 at 17:02
  • I dispute that this is possible. Who would the President be giving this order to, and who would be bound to obey it? If they are not in the Executive Branch (and pretty much nobody involved in Presidential elections is) then what impact would his order have? Commented Jun 16, 2022 at 20:09

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