- Thomson Reuters
Presidents don’t have the power to declare war, make laws, or lower gas prices (however much public outrage there may be).
But there are a number of lesser-known abilities that come with the office – and they require no approval whatsoever.
Most are fairly harmless, although some could end in unintended disaster.
Here’s just a sampling of those powers.
Send texts to everyone’s phone.
- Business Insider
There are three cases in which everyone’s phone in the office might buzz simultaneously: an emergency alert in life-threatening situations, an Amber alert to signal a missing child, and an alert from the president.
The first two are blockable if you go into your phone’s settings, but per FCC guidelines, the third is not.
If he so chooses, Trump could text everyone anytime he feels like it.
Launch a nuclear attack.
Trump isn’t so powerful as to declare war by himself, but he can order a nuclear strike at the drop of a hat.
At all times, presidents are no more than several feet from a briefcase known as the “nuclear football.” It contains the launch codes for America’s nuclear arsenal.
If the president wants, he or she can pass on the order to the Secretary of Defense, who has no veto power in the matter, and the strike will commence.
Order searches of electronic devices.
In 2002, President George W. Bush authorized the Department of Homeland Security to search all electronics within 100 miles of a border without a warrant.
In certain places, such as Connecticut, Hawaii, and Florida, that freedom ends up applying to the entire state. Overall, it applies to some 200 million people, according to the ACLU.
It’s also up to the president to create or dismantle such departments in the first place.
Order advanced screenings of TV shows and movies.
- White House/Flickr
In 2016, President Obama skipped On Demand in favor of just demanding that his family be able to watch the sixth season of “Games of Thrones” ahead of the general public.
Obama sent the request to the show’s creators, who promptly responded in the affirmative.
As Producer David Benioff told CNN, “When the commander in chief says, ‘I want to see advanced episodes’ – what are ya gonna do?”
Take away government employees’ texting privileges.
- Flickr / m01229
In October 2009, President Obama signed an executive order that prohibited federal employees from texting while driving.
“With nearly 3 million civilian employees, the Federal Government can and should demonstrate leadership in reducing the dangers of text messaging while driving,” the order read.
It was one of 277 orders signed during his eight-year presidency.
Declare and extend states of emergency.
- Flickr/Emery Graham
States of emergency aren’t fleeting. They can extend for decades, mainly because presidents can extend them whenever they choose.
Six years into Obama’s presidency, for example, there were 30 active emergencies around the world. A few were from his two terms, while others he renewed from Clinton and even as far back as Carter.
These declarations allow the president to mobilize health-care aid, seize property, or fire and hire military personnel at any time.