Dismantling the Trump Court

The fascist con man who sits in the Oval Office will be nominating another Supreme Court Justice soon, and no accusation of hypocrisy or appeal to reason or decency will stop Mitch McConnell from making sure the Senate confirms that nominee.  The only question is whether Susan Collins will pretend she isn’t voting to end Roe v Wade or abandon the pretense.

So this seems like a good time to suggest a couple of remedies that will be available to us when the Party of Trump has been removed from power.

One, and we can accomplish it shortly after regaining power, is expanding the court from 9 Justices to 11.  A Democratic candidate for President who won’t endorse this isn’t worth supporting.  As I said before,

[Republicans] will call it court packing (and for once they will be correct), they will call it unprecedented, they will call it unfair. And we should say nothing in response but “April 7, 2017.”

Another tactic, which we should use as soon as we can muster a 2/3 majority in the Senate, is to impeach some Supreme Court Justices.

But, argue the nervous liberal defenders of the courts, won’t such progressive attacks undermine the courts more generally?

Quite honestly, judicial independence is quite well defended in the U.S. Constitution. As noted, it takes a two-thirds vote of the Senate to remove a federal judge, which is almost insurmountable in our two-party system. The Justices don’t need us to watch our language to remain the least accountable branch of government.

But some progressive legal scholars seem to worry that rhetorical attacks on the Court will somehow delegitimize the Court in the public mind — as if that’s a bad thing.

Here’s the reality. Because of a few high-profile decisions under the Warren Court, many progressives are under the delusion that the courts are the institutional friend of civil rights and a democratic society. In fact, the courts have mostly been the enemy of democracy and liberties in this nation and served overwhelmingly as the handmaiden of corporate privilege.

And just to repeat myself, a Democratic candidate who says no to impeaching the worst Justices on the Court, who thinks we should “look forward not back,” who thinks impeachment would be “divisive,” is not worthy of Democratic primary votes.

Are we a fascist country yet?

The transition of a society from liberal democracy to fascism isn’t a sudden thing.  The gradual transformation must have seemed normal and sensible to a lot of Italian, Spanish, and German citizens in the 1930s.  It’s worth asking today how future historians will view the America of 2018.  Will they wonder why we we went along, why we didn’t seem to notice what was happening?

Several signposts are already in the rear-view mirror.  The President has called news reporters “enemies of the state” and openly incites violence against them.  We had an open gathering of KKK members and actual Nazis in Charlottesville, described by President as “very fine people.”  Trump has repeatedly praised President Duterte of the Philippines, who literally describes himself as a fascist, and particularly likes Duterte’s program of mass murder.  He has asserted more than once that he is above the law.  We have Rep. Steve King, R-IA, openly and repeatedly expressing his support for fascists.  We have various Republicans saying, as Ted Nugent did, that Democrats should be shot, and that people who take down Confederate monuments should be lynched, and that it’s a good thing when reporters are beaten.  We have death threats against a federal judge who blocked Trump’s Muslim ban.  We have numerous incidents of anti-Semitism, including one at a Republican event.  And we have actual Hitler-loving Nazis praising our current administration.

So what has been happening lately?

That is an incomplete list of things that have happened in just the last two weeks.  We should probably all be thinking about how history will judge us for resisting, or failing to resist, in 2018.

 

A stain that will never come out

Let’s get some clarity on the worst Trump administration policy so far.

  • The Trump administration has made a policy of separating children from their parents at the border, for the express purpose of deterrence, that is, terrorizing people to keep them from attempting to cross the border.  John Kelley said as much on the record, as did Jeff Sessions when he announced the policy.
  • The Trump administration is now gaslighting us, denying what we all heard them say about their deliberate policy of tearing families apart. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Sunday on Twitter, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”  Trump himself has repeated the lie, over and over again, that families are being separated because of a nonexistent law passed by the Democrats.
  • The children are being held in cages.  The officials who deny there are children in cages, are denying what we have already seen.  We have an unedited, confirmed audio recording of children wailing and crying for their parents.  The recording lasts 7 minutes 47 seconds.  Listen to the whole thing if you can.  I can’t.
  • Mitch McConnell has said that a “narrow fix” to the problem is needed.  “I support, and all of the members of the Republican conference support, a plan that keeps families together while their immigration status is determined,” he claims.  And yet:  every Democrat in the U.S. Senate has cosponsored the “Keep Families Together Act,” a bill that would only allow undocumented children to be separated from their parents if there is evidence of parents abusing the children or children being trafficked.  Sounds like a pretty narrow fix.  But for all the hand-wringing and concerned noises being made by Republicans, not one Republican has endorsed the bill.
  • Rank and file Republicans don’t bother pretending to oppose the policy.  A new poll shows that 55% of Republicans approve of the family separations.

So to review, we have a Republican policy, that the framers of that policy are lying about.  We have Republican officials opposing the policy, but not supporting a bill that would put an end to it.  We have a solid majority of rank and file Republicans approving of a policy that can only be characterized as evil.

Let’s remember this when a Republican stands up, now and in the future, to tell us the difference between right and wrong.  They have no standing to talk about morality.  They are solidly and unapologetically behind evil.

Trump ignores protocol, salutes North Korean officer

For a guy who claims to love the military, this is an amazing slap in the face to American service members.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, a senior adviser to the advocacy group VoteVets.org, said, “It is wholly inappropriate for the commander in chief of our armed forces to salute the military of our adversary, especially one which is responsible for a regime of terror, murder and unspeakable horror against its own people.”

 

Steve King friendly with another Nazi

Another shocking-but-not-surprising thing from Representative Steve King, the Republican who represents this very district: he shared, approvingly, a social media post from a British neo-Nazi, Mark Collett.  That’s not just my characterization of Collett’s views, he describes himself as a “Nazi sympathizer” and an admirer of Hitler’s Germany.

There can be no doubt about Collett’s abhorrent vision. As a Slate  piece explained, “According to HuffPost, Collett was once the youth leader of the British National Party, an extreme far-right party, and he once said that AIDS is a ‘friendly disease because blacks, drug users, and gays have it.’ He has also espoused anti-Semitic beliefs and appeared frequently on far-right and white nationalist podcasts. In his Twitter feed, he talks about white genocide, a popular concept among white supremacists, and the ‘price of multiculturalism.’”

But what matters in this case is not Collett’s disgusting worldview. It’s not even Steve King’s unsurprising willingness to promote Collett’s online content.

What shouldn’t go overlooked is the Iowa Republican’s ability to get away with stuff like this – because the right-wing congressman’s party has an endless tolerance for his offensive antics. Or put another way, the question is less about Steve King and more about what GOP leaders intend to do about Steve King.

For example, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is running for a full term this year, and she chose King to serve as one of her campaign co-chairs.

This isn’t new behavior for Steve King.  We have previously documented some of his white supremacist statements here and noted his friendly relations with fascists in France.

If the Iowa Republican Party is OK with this, and obviously they are, then they are un-American, and unfit to be in government.

A culture of shameless corruption

Let us be clear about what Republican government is.  It is government by people who line their own pockets with public funds.  It is government by people who openly accept bribes.  The Republican Party, which still claims to stand for the rule of law, has given us a government that is proudly, brazenly above the law.

If you doubt it, consider:

  • EPA Director Scott Pruitt enjoys the support of the President and most Republicans in Congress, despite being the subject of more than a dozen investigations.  He has spent millions of taxpayer dollars on a security detail that apparently runs errands for him, including picking up his dry cleaning.  He spent $163,000 in first class air travel during his first year.  Lobbyists arranged his travel to Morocco and Italy, and tried to arrange a trip to Israel that was cancelled.  He stayed in a Washington condo for $50 a night, thanks to a lobbyist who had business before the EPA.  He had his scheduler find him a Washington house on federal time.  He spent $9600 decorating his office.  He used his office to try to get his wife a Chick-fil-A franchise.
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has been the subject of four investigations, including his questionable travel paid for with funds meant to fight wildfires, and his attempt to spend $139,000 in taxpayer money on new doors to his office.
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson famously got caught spending $31,000 in taxpayer dollars on a dining room set.
  • The Chinese government will contribute half a billion dollars to the Trump Organization, to help build an Indonesian theme park that features a Trump-branded golf course.  This immediately followed Trump’s pledge to help save Chinese phone company ZTE from bankruptcy, despite the fact that ZTE is under penalty for not just selling US-made surveillance gear to North Korea and Iran, but repeatedly lying to US investigators about it.
  • Speaking of Chinese payoffs directly to the Trump family, Ivanka Trump has enjoyed 13 new trademark approvals by the Chinese government in the space of just three months.
  • President Trump proposes to pardon former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.  He does not assert that Blagojevich is innocent of trying to sell a Senate seat, rather, he says that Blagojevich’s corruption simply wasn’t that big a deal.  To quote him directly, “Plenty of other politicians have said a lot worse.”  That’s a very low moral standard indeed.
  • The President asserts “the absolute right to PARDON myself.”  He further claims he cannot obstruct justice, because he is personally in charge of all Justice Department investigations.  (His legal claim is wrong, and we know that because of an Office of Legal Counsel opinion on the subject.  Richard Nixon resigned because he found out he couldn’t pardon himself.)  If you wondered when Trump would claim that he is simply above the law, you can quit wondering.  We’ve arrived.

Trump appoints torturer to head CIA. Here are the Democrats who helped.

President Donald Trump’s pick Gina Haspel was voted in by the Senate as the new head of the CIA, despite playing a key part in post-9/11 torture programs under President George W. Bush.  It could not have happened without the help of six Democratic senators.  Only one of them, Bill Nelson of Florida, still has a primary opponent. As for the rest of them, when you get a fundraising call from the Democratic National Committee or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, tell them NO, you won’t help the national Party until they stop supporting these terrible senators.  Give your money to local candidates instead.

  • Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia – already won his primary
  • Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana – was unopposed in the primary
  • Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida – primary opponent is Tamika Lyles, primary is August 28
  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – unopposed, Dustin David Peyer withdrew. Primary is June 12.
  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire – not up for reelection until 2020
  • Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia – not up for relection until 2020

Every one of these senators also voted with the Republicans to deregulate banks.