The on-going assault by Trump on the rule of law takes many forms. You have the glaring attacks–obstruction of justice, illegal appointing an attorney general to protect the president, undermining due process for immigrants, attacking the First Amendment.
You have the sotto voce support for criminals and thugs–like actively working to assist the Saudi royal family in the cover-up of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi or embracing and celebrating other enemies of justice from Putin to Kim to Erdogan to Duterte.
Finally, you have the stealth attacks, where inaction undercuts justice and puts millions at risk. Here, the silence of the administration on the Russian take-over–which means the Putin take-over–of Interpol.
Putin is a kleptocrat who regularly orders the murder and jailing of his enemies. He is one of the world’s worst criminals and he is being given control of the world’s pre-eminent international law enforcement agency.
So we must ask: “why?” Is the president oblivious? Is he ignorant of the law? Is he just too busy to concern himself with small matters like the fact the foundation of civilization is the rule of law and that the core principle of our society is that no one is above the law?
Of course, despite his demonstrable ignorance and regular obliviousness to traditions, standards, and laws, it is not so much any of these things as it is Trump’s character and his history. Showing contempt for the law is who he is and who he has been his whole life.
Whether it is his family’s contempt for civil rights protections of their tenants or Trump’s efforts to game the draft, whether it is his view the bankruptcy code was a tool given to the rich to exploit those who had fewer resources or the serial tax frauds of his family whether it has been his utter disregard for the rules for handling sensitive and classified US government information (not to mention the contempt for such rules also shown by his family) or it was his contempt for ethics guidelines whether it has been his hiring of advisors who themselves are serial rule-breakers or law-breakers or it is his serial betrayals of the United States and his oath to the Constitution, Trump has more often shown his opinion of the law in its breach than via upholding it.
He gained the presidency by breaking campaign finance laws & quite possibly, in complicity in a conspiracy to defraud the US (or worse). He made apparent promises to foreign leaders who supported him that he would help waive laws (sanctions, for example), in their favor.
From violating the emoluments clause to the Constitution to paying hush money and using strong-arm tactics to influence or intimidate those who get in his way, one of the most profound shifts that has occurred with the election of Donald Trump is that the president of the United States has gone from being seen as one of the world’s foremost champions of the rule of law to one of its most prominent enemies. He is not a servant of justice, but a serial abuser of the law in service of himself, his family and his friends.
Further, he has entered into a pernicious global alliance with other world leaders who like him are working to destroy or pervert the institutions of international law even as they do the same to any such institutions that remain in their country.
From undercutting Interpol to the International Criminal Court, from blowing up international treaties to defunding multilateral institutions, these corrupt leaders are waging a campaign that both enriches them and endangers, disenfranchises and impoverishes the rest of the world.
Trump’s campaign against the law is not a consequence of a strategy–it is a consequence of his own sense of entitlement, of a life lived believing that laws are for people who can’t afford lawyers. It is a manifestation not of a philosophical viewpoint but of a desire to satisfy his appetites and need and greed. But it is no less dangerous because it comes from his gut rather than his head and he is actively aided in his pursuit by an army of self-interested abettors.
From Mitch McConnell packing the courts with Trump appointees to Paul Ryan and the GOP in the House actively participating in Trump’s obstruction of justice, from his cabinet of crooks to his lawyers who seek to justify the indefensible, he is not alone in this.
His attacks on these foundations not just of democracy but of civilization are therefore now a systematic onslaught waged at home and abroad. Regulations that protected us against corporate abuses fall as do the innocent opponents of abusive leaders.
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This is as great a danger as we face from a man who is the greatest national security threat the US has faced since the end of the Cold War. He is worse than a terrorist because he destroys our institutions not with bombs but from within.
We must recognize this threat and understand its gravity. And then, led by the newly constituted House of Representatives, but with the growing assistance of enlightened governments and populations worldwide, we must turn back this war on the law and these enemies who are leading it.
To do so, we have only one avenue. We must use the very laws they seek to defeat to defeat them, their contempt for justice as grounds to bring them to justice. Perhaps Robert Mueller will help lead that. But no one man or woman or investigation can do it.
This is a global war fought on many fronts. It requires a global response led by many leaders who recognize these profound risks.