Jenkins: Trump does devil’s work in attack in attacking court
By Paul Jenkins |
It is unsettling, even frightening, to hear a president of the United States, any president, lash out and publicly attack a court, any court in this country, as “political” and “disgraceful.” It can serve no purpose, but to undermine the public’s confidence in its courts and the rule of law.
President Donald Trump did just that when he pitched a tantrum even his Supreme Court nominee, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch, characterized as “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
Trump went off after a three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not rule immediately after hearing arguments about a Seattle lower court’s ruling on his ban barring refugees from seven, majority Muslim nations.
“I don’t ever want to call a court biased, so I won’t call it biased,” Trump told the Washington, D.C., conference of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, which represents sheriffs and police chiefs. “But courts seem to be so political, and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right.”
To bolster his argument, he read aloud federal law giving presidents power to restrict immigration whenever it presents a danger to the nation.
“You can suspend, you can put restrictions, you can do whatever you want,” Trump said. “You’re the chiefs, you’re the sheriffs, you understand this. A bad high school student would understand this.”
Reportedly, the appeals court judges — appointed by Presidents Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — were not all that taken with the Justice Department lawyer’s defense of the ban, issued without warning Jan. 27 in a stunning example of politics outrunning policy. They poked at whether the ban was even constitutional — and later upheld a lower court’s restraining order blocking its implementation.
Count me among those not enamored of the massive, cumbersome 9th Circuit — and, yes, Sen. Dan Sullivan is right to pick up the cudgel and carry on the decades-old battle to force its eventual breakup — but, for crying out loud, the three judges Trump trashed simply were doing their jobs.
When you cover city, state and federal courts for a few years, when your patoot gets callouses from hitting too many hard courthouse benches, this much becomes clear: The system does, indeed, have real weak spots; there are judges on the bench only because they cannot do much else; court systems, like any bureaucracy, work to perpetuate themselves; and, there are times when justice takes a back seat to expedience.
Yeah, courts and judges and prosecutors can be political. Yeah, they can be absolutely disgraceful. But not the majority of the time. The prime takeaway after watching them is they generally get it right and are absolutely, positively necessary, not only to deal with the worst of us, but to protect the weakest.
One of the shining lights in the legal profession is Laurence Tribe, a liberal’s liberal, an honest scholar, one heck of lawyer and a hero of mine. I doubt we would agree on anything, but he won my respect when he stepped up and destroyed the left’s idiotic argument that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual right.
He is a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School (Barack Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts were his students) and the Carl M. Loeb University Professor at Harvard University — and a guy who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court 36 times.
Nowadays, he is part of a lawsuit aiming to make Trump sell his assets to avoid violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which says, in part: “And no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
Though Trump’s family is taking the reins of his business, payments to them while he is president could influence his actions and violate the clause, the thinking goes. His recent tweet lambasting Nordstrom bolsters that thinking.
Speaking with The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart in his weekly “Cape Up,” podcast, Tribe said: “(T)he independent judiciary really is our last best hope in terms of enforcing the rule of law and protecting vulnerable values and vulnerable groups from those in positions of power.”
It is, indeed, our last best hope in a world verging on madness. The judiciary and the rule of law are all that stand between us and a Third World nightmare of Trumpish proportions. When the narcissus-in-chief denigrates courts publicly, when he labels them “political” and “disgraceful,” he does the devil’s work and undermines one of this nation’s most vital institutions.
If there is anything political and disgraceful in all this, it certainly is not the courts.