Legal experts discuss what Donald Trump can and can’t do as president

Posted at 9:22 PM, Nov 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-11 23:22:29-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- While protesters expressed outrage in the streets over Donald Trump's presidency, many have voiced concerns on social media--wondering how Trump's presidency will influence immigration, health care and same-sex marriage.

Trump has an action plan for his first 100 days in office, which ranges from deporting illegal immigrants, to suspending immigration from some areas, to building a wall along the U.S. Mexico border, to repealing Obamacare.

But can Trump really do what he promised?

We'll start with immigration.

Trump said he'll deport more than 2 million "criminal illegal immigrants."

James Curry, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Utah, indicated the worries surrounding that policy are warranted, depending on who you are.

"For anyone who is in the country illegally, it's a legitimate fear," he said.

As president, Trump would carry power to come down harshly on immigration, Curry explained. But it will only go so far.

"There are laws," Curry said. "[The president] can't just uproot whoever [he] wants."

Trump also wants to suspend immigration from terror-prone regions.

"Ban on people from coming in? He could try," Curry said.

But, in order to structure immigration in certain ways, he said, it would require an act of Congress.

That means lawmakers, Democrats included, would need to jump on board.

Same with that proposed wall to separate the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

That's because, Curry said, it'd be costly and not likely Mexico would fund it.

As Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, explained on election night, he holds the purse strings for anything Trumps wants to fund.

"As Chairman of the Finance Committee, he's going to have to have me," Hatch explained, referencing Trump's need to have his support. "Because that's the committee where all the money is."

Curry said the Trump Administration could just end up beefing up border security, or building portions of the wall.

Some worry about Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, to replace former Justice Antonin Scalia.

Paul Cassell, Professor of Law at the University of Utah College of Law, said Trump has indicated he intends to fill the spot with someone similar to Scalia, meaning his pick probably won't change much as far as the balance of the court.

"I don't think the Supreme Court is going to create any real significant day-to-day change in people's lives, compared to what they're doing now," he said.

That means decisions like same-sex marriage will likely stay where they're at.

How about fully repealing Obamacare?

Trump says he'll do it, but Curry said it's more likely the Trump Administration will end up pushing some sort of reform bill that repeals aspects of Obamacare, rather than the whole thing.

Curry explained that, in the end, the government's system of checks and balances makes it hard for any president to come in and do what they want, Trump included.