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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland.

Trump on the Limits of Trump

“We have far too much imperialism in the chief executive.”

In September the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, is likely to give its endorsement to Donald Trump. Even before the union’s slap at Democratic convention organizers for featuring the bereaved mothers of black civilians but not the widows of slain cops, Trump had been solicitous of the 330,000-member organization. The Trump campaign submitted detailed answers to the union’s lengthy candidate questionnaire, while the Clinton campaign declined to participate.

A Trump endorsement would be unsurprising given the Republican nominee’s declaration that he intends to be a law-and-order president. The FOP has not endorsed a Democrat since Bill Clinton’s tough-on-crime campaign in 1996. (James Pasco, executive director of the FOP, said he made repeated efforts to get a questionnaire from Mrs. Clinton. The Clinton campaign did not respond to requests for an interview.)

In 1989, Trump bought full-page ads like this one in four New York City newspapers after a group of black teenage boys and young men were charged with raping, and nearly killing, a white female jogger in Central Park. (The men were later exonerated, and agreed to a $41 million settlement from the city of New York.) The ads called for the death penalty for "muggers and murderers."

More surprising is the tone of the answers Trump (or more likely a Trump underling) supplied to the union’s questions. Trump on the stump seems to promise that he will restore law and order singlehanded.

“The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon — and I mean very soon — come to an end,” he declared at the Republican convention last week. “ Beginning on January 20th, 2017, safety will be restored.”

In contrast, the campaign’s answers to the police union are a litany of reasons why such a feat would be impossible. Again and again, this version of Trump points out the limits of a president’s power to control crime and violence. He defers to states, or to local governments, or to Congress. He says repeatedly that the Constitution constrains the power of the federal government.

In response to one question, about laws that reduce Social Security payments for people who also draw a government pension, Trump responds: “The actions you are asking me to support are those that should be considered by Congress without the interference or influence of the President or others in the executive branch. We have, in this country, had far too much of imperialism in the chief executive.”

Here are a few more excerpts:

On two issues, Trump sounds like himself, only a slightly subdued version: