Tag Archives: The Rule of Law

The Lawless Presidency

Published / by stevec

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David Leonhardt speaks to Trump’s disrespect for The Rule of Law in an editorial in today’s New York Times. Below are exerts:

Democracy isn’t possible without the rule of law — the idea that consistent principles, rather than a ruler’s whims, govern society. …Even amid bitter fights over what the law should say, both Democrats and Republicans have generally accepted the rule of law. President Trump does not. His rejection of it distinguishes him from any other modern American leader. He has instead flirted with Louis XIV’s notion of “L’état, c’est moi”: The state is me — and I’ll decide which laws to follow.

Let’s walk through the major themes:

LAW ENFORCEMENT, POLITICIZED. People in federal law enforcement take pride in trying to remain apart from politics. I’ve been talking lately with past Justice Department appointees, from both parties, and they speak in almost identical terms. …Trump has erased this distinction. …He pressured Comey to drop the investigation of Trump’s campaign and fired Comey when he refused. …The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is part of the problem. He is supposed to be the nation’s head law-enforcement official, but acts as a Trump loyalist.

COURTS, UNDERMINED. Past administrations have respected the judiciary as having the final word on the law. Trump has tried to delegitimize almost any judge who disagrees with him.

TEAM TRUMP, ABOVE THE LAW. Foreign governments speed up trademark applications from Trump businesses. Foreign officials curry favor by staying at his hotel. A senior administration official urges people to buy Ivanka Trump’s clothing. The president violates bipartisan tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, thus shrouding his conflicts. …The behavior has no precedent. “Trump and his administration are flagrantly violating ethics laws,” the former top ethics advisers to George W. Bush and Barack Obama have written. …Their attitude is clear: If we’re doing it, it’s O.K.

CITIZENS, UNEQUAL. Trump and his circle treat themselves as having a privileged status under the law. And not everyone else is equal, either. In a frightening echo of despots, Trump has signaled that he accepts democracy only when it suits him. Remember when he said, “I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election — if I win”?

TRUTH, MONOPOLIZED. The consistent application of laws requires a consistent set of facts on which a society can agree. The Trump administration is trying to undermine the very idea of facts. It has harshly criticized one independent source of information after another. The Congressional Budget Office. The Bureau of Labor Statistics. The C.I.A. Scientists. And, of course, the news media.