What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law



Professor Elizabeth Joh teaches Intro to Constitutional Law and most of the time this is a pretty straight forward job. But with Trump in office, everything has changed. Five minutes before class Professor Joh checks Twitter to find out what the 45th President has said and how it jibes with 200 years of the judicial branch interpreting and ruling on the Constitution. Hosted by acclaimed podcaster Roman Mars (99% Invisible, co-founder Radiotopia), this show is a weekly, fun, casual Con Law 101 class that uses the tumultuous and erratic activities of the executive branch under Trump to teach us all about the US Constitution. Proud member of Radiotopia from PRX.


  • 51- The Capitol Mob and their cell phones

    51- The Capitol Mob and their cell phones

    27/03/2021 Duration: 27min

    On January 6th, a mob stormed the US Capitol to try to stop the certification of the presidential election results. Many of the insurrectionists will be tracked down and charged with crimes, in part, because their cell phone placed them in the Capitol Building during the attack. The case of Carpenter v. United States is the closest the Supreme Court has come to weighing in on the matter of historical cell phone data, but the decision didn’t not offer an opinion on law enforcement’s use of a location specific cell phone tower data dump without an individual suspect in mind. This brings up questions about the way warrants usually work under the Fourth Amendment.

  • 50- Deplatforming and Section 230

    50- Deplatforming and Section 230

    27/02/2021 Duration: 32min

    Following the January 6th riot on Capitol Hill, the major social media platforms banned former President Donald Trump, and many accounts related to far-right conspiracy theories. In response, conservative activists have called for the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, saying it would prevent ‘censorship’ of right-wing viewpoints in the future. But what does Section 230 actually say? How are the social media companies determining what can be on their platforms?

  • 49- Incitement

    49- Incitement

    30/01/2021 Duration: 33min

    On January 13th, former President Donald Trump became the first person ever to be impeached twice by the House of Representatives. But with Trump out of office, it’s unclear if there will be enough votes to reach the two-thirds majority needed to convict him in the Senate. With the trial looming, we look at whether Trump has a good argument against the charge he incited a riot on Capitol Hill, and whether or not it’s constitutional to impeach someone after they leave office.

  • 48- The Final Days

    48- The Final Days

    26/12/2020 Duration: 38min

    How Trump is failing to overturn the election and how he might use his pardon power in his final days. This episode was recorded on December 21, 2020.

  • 47- Lame Duck

    47- Lame Duck

    26/11/2020 Duration: 35min

    In late November, most states have certified the Presidential election for Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris. But Donald Trump continues to deny the results of the election and insist (without a shred evidence) that he lost because of voter fraud. What does the constitution have to say about the transfer of power? What if Donald Trump fails to concede? What does the constitution say about the period of time after an incumbent loses but remains in power?

  • 46- Counting Votes

    46- Counting Votes

    31/10/2020 Duration: 31min

    During the 2000 Presidential Election, it wasn’t immediately certain who had won the electoral college votes in Florida, throwing the entire process into chaos. Eventually, the SCOTUS had to step in to rule on the outcome. With the 2020 election only a few days out, we take a look back at how the Supreme Court played a role in adjudicating the election in Bush v. Gore, and then we look forward to what might happen this time around.

  • 45- SCOTUS without RBG

    45- SCOTUS without RBG

    26/09/2020 Duration: 33min

    On September 18th, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died at the age of 87. She was a trailblazing jurist who fought for the equality of women before the law. But her legacy is in peril, as Donald Trump and Senate Republicans prepare to nominate a conservative successor. What can Democrats do to alter the course of the SCOTUS? And what does the constitution tell us about so-called ‘judicial supremacy’?

  • 44- The Hatch Act and The Election

    44- The Hatch Act and The Election

    29/08/2020 Duration: 28min

    With only two months before the election, the Republican Party got a lot of attention - and scorn - for using the White House as a backdrop during their nominating convention. The convention appeared to be in contradiction of The Hatch Act, which forbids federal employees from political campaigning while they’re on duty. Even if the convention broke the law, will anyone be held accountable? Plus, we tackle the President’s recent comments casting doubt on mail-in balloting.

  • 43- The Trump SCOTUS Term

    43- The Trump SCOTUS Term

    01/08/2020 Duration: 42min

    We review some of the big cases that were decided during the SCOTUS term and assess the constitutionality of the federal policing of the Portland protests

  • 42 - Police, Race, and Federalism

    42 - Police, Race, and Federalism

    27/06/2020 Duration: 30min

    As people around the world continue to protest police brutality, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have proposed bills that would reform policing across the U.S. But in the American system, states are given a lot of latitude over law enforcement, down to the use of tactics like chokeholds and tear gas. Given the constitution, what can the federal government actually do to make things better? Also, why was the ever-obscure Third Amendment trending last month?

  • 41- The Socially Distanced SCOTUS

    41- The Socially Distanced SCOTUS

    30/05/2020 Duration: 35min

    The Supreme Court may not be able to meet in person, but they are still doing business over conference call. This month, they've considered three cases about Donald Trump's finances, and whether they should be released to Congressional committees and prosecutors in New York. What does history tell us about these cases which could have major consequences for executive power?

  • 40- Jacobson and COVID

    40- Jacobson and COVID

    24/04/2020 Duration: 30min

    In mid-April, 2020, states are beginning to explore ways to re-open their economies amid the global coronavirus pandemic. But with states devising their own paths forward, many are wondering what powers the government has, even during a national emergency. Are the states violating our civil liberties by enforcing these lockdowns? To answer this question, many legal scholars are looking to a 115-year-old Supreme Court case for answers, Jacobson v. Massachusetts.

  • 39- Quarantine Powers

    39- Quarantine Powers

    17/03/2020 Duration: 32min

    During a health crisis, what is the government allowed to do? As the novel coronavirus spreads across America, there have been closures and lockdowns across the country. In this episode, we look to history to understand who has the power to quarantine, and how the office of the president can be used to slow down a pandemic.

  • 38- Prosecutorial Discretion

    38- Prosecutorial Discretion

    22/02/2020 Duration: 34min

    Prosecutors recommended that Roger Stone, an associate of Donald Trump, be given a heavy penalty after being convicted of seven felony counts, including lying to authorities. But after intervention from Attorney General Barr, and tweets from the President, those recommendations were rescinded. What can his case tell us about presidential interference and prosecutorial discretion?

  • 37 - War Powers and Impeachment Update

    37 - War Powers and Impeachment Update

    25/01/2020 Duration: 35min

    After Donald Trump ordered the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, many wondered if the two countries were on the brink of a major conflict. This incident is only the latest in the long-standing fight between Congress and the President over who has the power to make war, and if an act of violence against another state can be legitimate without Congressional approval. This episode also includes an update on the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump, which began earlier this week. Make your mark. Donate at http://radiotopia.fm

  • 36- Bribery

    36- Bribery

    23/12/2019 Duration: 30min

    Bribery is one of the three offenses listed in the Constitution as grounds for impeachment. Even though that is attempting to bribe Ukraine is the act that precipitated to Trump’s impeachment, it’s not explicitly listed in the articles of impeachment. Why is that? Make your mark. Go to radiotopia.fm to donate today.

  • 35- Confrontation Clause

    35- Confrontation Clause

    15/11/2019 Duration: 29min

    Since the beginning of the impeachment proceedings against the President, Donald Trump has insisted he has a right to confront “the whistleblower,” the anonymous member of the intelligence community who set the whole thing in motion. There is a Confrontation Clause in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which says a defendant in a criminal case has the right to face their accuser. But does this clause apply to the impeachment hearing against a president in Congress?

  • 34- Foreign Affairs

    34- Foreign Affairs

    18/10/2019 Duration: 29min

    Donald Trump says he should not be impeached as President, since there was ‘no quid pro quo’ on a phone call where he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. But does quid pro quo need to be explicitly stated to be a legal issue? And can private citizens like Rudy Giuliani represent America on foreign policy issues? Get the new Shredders album from Doomtree!

  • 33- Obstruction

    33- Obstruction

    21/09/2019 Duration: 26min

    Trump lawyers assert that all of Trump’s actions during the Mueller investigation were within his rights as President and can’t be classified as obstruction of justice, especially because there is no underlying crime alleged. But as Martha Stewart will tell you, that’s not how obstruction of justice works. Get the new Shredders album from Doomtree!

  • 32- Contempt Power

    32- Contempt Power

    13/05/2019 Duration: 20min

    What is Congress’ contempt power and how can they use it to force people to cooperate with their investigations?

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