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Trump: Supporters may ‘demand’ third term. What does the Constitution say about that?

President Donald Trump tweeted an idea Sunday that his supporters might not want him to leave office after two terms, should he win reelection in 2020, and that they might "demand" he stick around for a third term as president.

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While his comments about his time in the Oval Office are not new – he joked at a Wounded Warrior event in April that he may be president for 10 or 14 years – term limits on the job of president would keep Trump from serving more than eight years – assuming he is reelected in 2020.

That hasn’t kept Trump from floating the idea, however.

“A poll should be done on which is the more dishonest and deceitful newspaper, the Failing New York Times or the Amazon (lobbyist) Washington Post! They are both a disgrace to our Country, the Enemy of the People, but I just can’t seem to figure out which is worse?” Trump began his tweet. “The good news is that at the end of 6 years, after America has been made GREAT again and I leave the beautiful White House (do you think the people would demand that I stay longer? KEEP AMERICA GREAT)," Trump wrote. 


Here's a look at the 22nd Amendment and the reason a post-wartime Congress introduced the idea of limiting a president’s power to stay in the White House.

What does the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution do?

The 22nd Amendment spells out a term limit for the president of the United States.

What does the 22nd Amendment say about how long a president can serve?

The amendment says a person may only serve two elected terms as president of the United States.

A person who takes over the presidency – whether by the death of the president or resignation or removal – and serves in that position for less than two years, may then go on to serve for two terms, should they be elected to them.

For instance, if a president dies during the first two years of his elected term, the vice president can serve out that term and run for president two more times.

If the vice president becomes president and serves more than two years of the term, then he or she can serve no more than one elected term.

Here is what the amendment says:

Section 1. “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.”

Section 2. “This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.”

What is the history behind the 22nd Amendment?

The history of the amendment can be traced back to America’s first president. According to historians, after two terms as president, George Washington was ready to retire and live out his days at Mount Vernon.

His decision to keep his time as president to two terms became an unwritten guide for the presidents who followed – most of whom thought eight years of running the country was enough for any one person.

While there had been talk of term limits, up until the 1940s, no amendment had ever been introduced to restrict the time a president can serve. In fact, only a handful of presidents had considered running for a third term.

In the late ‘30s and during World War II, that thinking changed – at least for Republicans in Congress – when President Franklin D. Roosevelt won four presidential elections in a row.

Roosevelt would serve three full terms. He died in office months into his fourth term.

Who proposed the 22nd Amendment?

Following Roosevelt’s four successive wins, the Republican-held Congress introduced the amendment, which was passed on Feb. 7, 1947, in the House and March 21, 1947, in the Senate.

On Feb. 27, 1951, the Minnesota legislature voted to ratify the amendment, giving the measure the required three-fourths vote of state legislatures needed to amend the Constitution.

Has any other president tried to serve more than two terms?

Yes, three have tried, but none was successful. President Ulysses Grant served two terms from 1870 to 1878, then tried to get his party’s nomination in 1880, but was unsuccessful.

Grover Cleveland had two nonconsecutive terms, 1885-1889 and 1893-1897 and tried for a third in 1896, but failed.

Theodore Roosevelt became president after President William McKinley’s assassination in 1901 – just six months into McKinley’s administration – and was then elected president in 1904. He ran in 1912 as a Progressive Party candidate but lost.

President Harry S. Truman was the last president who could have tried for a third term as the 22nd Amendment was ratified while he was president. The amendment was not retroactive and would not have prevented him from trying for a third term.

He did not try for a third term.

Can a president run for a third term after skipping a term?

No, a president cannot run for a third term after skipping a term. The amendment counts years served, not concurrent terms. 

In this May 20, 2019 file photo, President Donald Trump gestures to the crowd as he finishes speaking at a campaign rally in Montoursville, Pa. Trump will be launching his re-election bid this week in Florida. 
Photo: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

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