Trump vs. the courts: It’s war
President Trump “has declared war on the judiciary,” said Dahlia Lithwick in Slate.com. When U.S. District Judge James Robart suspended his controversial executive order on immigration and refugees, the president blasted the “so-called judge,” claimed the “ridiculous” ruling put the nation’s security at risk, and said the judiciary will be to blame if terrorists strike. Then, even before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel also ruled against him, Trump said even “a bad high school student” would understand why the Constitution gave him sole, unfettered authority to determine immigration policy. Even Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Neil Gorsuch, let it be known he found these dangerous attacks on judicial independence “demoralizing” and “disheartening.” By questioning the very legitimacy of the judicial branch, said Martha Minow and Robert Post in The Boston Globe, Trump seems to be suggesting that the rule of law is “simply one more enemy to be smashed.”
Sorry to break it to you, said Salena Zito in the Washington Examiner, but presidents have been publicly complaining about the courts since our republic’s founding. FDR, for example, made a failed bid to “pack” the nation’s highest court with favorable jurists; President Obama denounced the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling on campaign finance during his 2010 State of the Union address—as many of the justices sat stone-faced in front of him. Where was the liberal outrage then? Trump’s “childish” tweets attacking Robart represent nothing more than a “tactical” error, said Andrew McCarthy in NationalReview.com. “Taking a swipe at a judge is never a smart move”—especially one who is “going to continue presiding over your case.”
If you think Trump was harmlessly venting, said Aaron Blake in WashingtonPost.com, consider what White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller said in several TV interviews last Sunday. Miller imperiously declared that the judiciary “has taken far too much power,” and that “our opponents” would soon see that Trump’s authority on national security issues “will not be questioned.” What? Miller claimed that anything Trump does to protect national security is “inherently constitutional” and is not subject to judicial oversight. That really is a “massive claim to power”—one that seriously undermines our tripartite system of checks and balances. Is anyone—liberal or conservative— comfortable with that?