• Mon. Nov 23rd, 2020

Trump keeps bending and breaking presidential norms. It will be easier for his successors to do the same.

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Credit…Travis Dove for The New York Times

Live (and taped) from Washington, it was Tuesday Night.

The Trump presidency has always had the air of a variety show, with every announcement delivered with an eye for how it would appear to a television audience.

But never has a commander in chief wielded the powers of his office so openly at a political convention as President Trump during the second night of the Republican conclave.

With his party’s leading lawmakers remaining mute, Mr. Trump used the second night of the convention to issue a pardon and help swear in five new citizens in the White House. That was before his current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, delivered an endorsement speech from Jerusalem. The evening was topped off by Melania Trump, the first lady, who made the case for her husband’s re-election from the Rose Garden.

The scenes of the Trump administration using the settings and trappings of power for political gain raised new questions about whether they were violating the Hatch Act, the federal law prohibiting the use of government resources for campaign purposes.

Some Republicans said that Mr. Trump’s dynamiting of the line between campaigning and governing was somewhat understandable in light of the coronavirus, which upended their plans to have the convention first in Charlotte, N.C., and then in Jacksonville, Fla.

But like so much else with this president, once he breaks longstanding political norms, it becomes far easier for his successors to do the same, particularly if they have the consent of their party.