Project Syndicate: After the 2018 midterm election, you discussed with Elmira Bayrasli the possibility that a “cornered” Trump might attempt to “exploit external problems – concerning Syria, Iran, and Russia, in particular – to undermine the Democrats’ popularity following their takeover of the House of Representatives.” Could a narrow Trump victory today – especially alongside a Democratic sweep of Congress – heighten such risks? How could a Democratic Congress check a Trump administration, especially in the foreign-policy arena?
Anne-Marie Slaughter: Political leaders commonly use foreign “crises” to distract from domestic politics when they are faced with unpleasant or adverse circumstances at home. So, if Trump were re-elected, but faced a Democrat-controlled Congress, he could be expected to make greater use of his executive powers, which are strongest in the realm of foreign policy.
That said, a Democratic Congress could take a number of measures to constrain Trump’s scope of action. It could leverage its “power of the purse” to block any initiatives he wishes to undertake that require public funding. It could also refuse to legislate sanctions he wishes to impose or to ratify agreements he reaches. And it could pass “sense of the Senate” or “sense of Congress” resolutions that send a different message to the world than whatever he might proclaim.