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Donald Trump told House Republicans he'd defend a nonexistent part of the Constitution

Donald Trump Campaigns in Cincinnati
John Sommers II/Getty Images
Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

On Thursday, Donald Trump flew to DC to meet with congressional Republicans and assuage their concerns about his candidacy. No worries appeared to have been addressed, but he did manage to generate some new ones, like, "Has Donald Trump ever read the Constitution?" The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan and Philip Rucker report:

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) left the meeting worried about Trump’s grasp on the basics of the Constitution. At a lunch with reporters afterward, he recalled that the candidate did not seem to know what he was promising to defend.

"I wasn’t particularly impressed," said Sanford. "It was the normal stream of consciousness that’s long on hyperbole and short on facts. At one point, somebody asked about Article I powers: What will you do to protect them? I think his response was, ‘I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,’ going down the list. There is no Article XII."

Indeed there is not. There are seven articles, not 12-plus. There are, however, 27 amendments, which was enough for Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), who told the Post that while Trump’s ignorance left him "uncomfortable," he assumed that Trump just got articles and amendments mixed up: "When he made the comment about the Constitution, I love this Article and that Article, I assumed he was talking about the Amendments, because he was off on the numbers."

"It’s all right, he just doesn’t know the difference between articles and amendments," is not the most reassuring defense in the history of politics, but it’s at least somewhat less damning. Then again, the 12th Amendment, which changed the process for selecting vice presidents to create modern "tickets" rather than granting the position to the election’s runner-up, does not really seem like it needs Trump’s protection. So I don’t know how much more sense that makes.

You might think that conservative members of Congress, who make a big deal out of their allegiance to and desire to defend the Constitution, would be horrified at their presumptive nominee’s ignorance of the document. Maybe it would even lead them to endorse the Libertarian Party ticket, which consists of two widely respected former Republican governors.

But Sanford, who despite making some #NeverTrump noises said he’d vote for Trump in May, remains cautiously on board, telling the Post, "He may be loose on some facts, reckless on some, but there’s not malicious intent there."

"Indifferent to the facts but not actively evil" is not the most rigorous bar you could judge a nominee against, but it looks like the one House Republicans are going with.

How much do conservatives hate Trump?

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