These Are the Presidents Who Violated the Constitution (and How Donald Trump Compares)

Every commander in chief swears to uphold the Constitution when they’re sworn in as president of the United States. What happens after is when things get tricky. They begin their presidencies and along the way forget about the oath they swore to uphold. Discover which presidents violated the Constitution — and see how Donald Trump compares (page 7) — ahead.

Abraham Lincoln

He suspended habeas corpus. | Alexander Gardner/U.S. Library of Congress via Getty Images

During the first year of the Civil War, while riots were occurring in border states, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, according to U.S. News & World Report. He allowed “the indefinite detention of ‘disloyal persons’ without trial.” Habeas corpus gives prisoners access to courts as a government mandate. Lincoln ignored a Supreme Court justice’s decision to overturn his order.

Hint: George W. Bush ignored legislation Congress passed.

George W. Bush

He justified arresting people, despite Congress’ disapproval. | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

During George W. Bush’s presidency, he used fighting the “war on terrorism” as justification for arresting people “whom he has determined to be this country’s enemies without obtaining a warrant, letting them hear the charges against them, or following other safeguards against wrongful punishment guaranteed by the Bill of Rights,” according to CBS. Bush then ignored the legislation passed by Congress to stop this type of treatment.

Hint: Roosevelt built internment camps.

Franklin Roosevelt

He sent people to internment camps. | Central Press/Getty Images

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, removing Americans of Japanese heritage from their homes and taking them to internment camps. The camps closed in 1945 after the Supreme Court decided in Endo v. the United States, the War Relocation Authority “has no authority to subject citizens who are concededly loyal to its leave procedure,” according to

Hint: Freedom of speech on one topic didn’t exist during this presidency.

John Adams

He limited free speech. | The White House Historical Association

President John Adams helped pass the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. The four laws “restricted the activities of foreign residents in the country and limited freedom of speech and of the press,” according to The laws made it illegal for publications to publish “‘false, scandalous, and malicious writing’ against Congress or the president.”

Hint: Insulting the U.S. government landed people in jail for decades.

Woodrow Wilson

He prohibited people from saying anything insulting about the government. | Images

During World War I and Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, the Espionage Act passed, followed shortly by the Sedition Act, according to  No one could say anything “insulting or abusing the U.S. government, the flag, the Constitution or the military.” A person found in guilty of violating this rule would receive a hefty fine and 20 years in prison.

Hint: Farming regulations became unconstitutional.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

He regulated agriculture to the extreme. | Keystone Features/Stringer/Getty Images

During his presidency, FDR proposed legislation authorizing the secretary of agriculture to implement a “program so rigid that it regulated how much wheat a homeowner could grow for his own family’s consumption,” according to The Wall Street Journal. He didn’t believe the program to be unconstitutional and called the Constitution “quaint” and outdated.

Hint: Constitutional violations are many for Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

His attacks on the free press might actually undermine the Constitution. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

The number of alleged Constitution violations are stacking up for President Donald Trump. He’s been accused of undermining the freedom of the press with “fake news” comments and wanting to put journalists in jail who have published government leaks, according to Newsweek. Trump’s also been accused of accepting payments from foreign officials, a direct violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause.

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