If you thought that the progressive media was crying wolf and overexaggerating the danger that Donald Trump poses to the rule of law in this country — if you thought that the courts would eventually provide a check on the president’s ruthless overreaching in exceeding the constitutional limits on his power despite his relentless packing of the judiciary with unqualified ultra-conservative judges who owe their loyalty to him — if you thought that was a line that even the most brazenly lawless president in American history wouldn’t cross — you were sadly, horrendously, pitifully wrong.
Trump crossed that line today with his unprecedented comments — repeated both in a news conference during his embarrassing visit to India and in a tweet that memorialized his attacks in text — demanding that Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg recuse themselves from any cases involving him or his administration because of their supposed bias against him.
Despite his foreign travels, the president still manages to keep up to date on the latest vitriol being spewed by Fox News right-wing rageaholics, so the source of his animus towards Justice Sotomayor is clear as his tweet made it plainly apparent that his misinterpretation of the Bronx-born Supreme Court jurist’s dissenting opinion — criticizing Trump’s now-servile Justice Department for being too quick to turn to the Supreme Court for reversals of lower court losses ruling on the administration’s oft-unconstitutional policies and bypassing standard appellate procedure to get an immediate stay from a Supreme Court now filled with a majority of conservative justices — came straight from that harridan of thoughtful legal analysis, Laura Ingraham.
….on all Trump, or Trump related, matters! While “elections have consequences”, I only ask for fairness, especially when it comes to decisions made by the United States Supreme Court!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2020
Apparently neither Ingraham — who with a law degree should know better — nor Trump is familiar with Supreme Court procedure or deliberations since they fail to understand that it is the entire purpose of a panel of jurists to discuss the law in a particular case, exchange opinions, and convince their colleagues of the superiority of their interpretation of the relevant law and precedent.
Saying that “elections have consequences,” the president ignores both the politically-motivated theft of his predecessor President Obama’s ability to have his own choice considered for the Supreme Court seat available after the death of arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia by the scheming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell but also the non-partisan nature of a court that is supposedly insulated from the day-to-day flux of political winds.
Not content with a mere Twitter rant displaying his ignorance and his selfish insistence that his own force of will dominates in pushing his heartless, heinous immigration policies and other controversial legislation prematurely pushed to the nation’s top court, Trump reiterated his attacks on Justice Sotomayor in a press conference this morning in New Delhi.
“Her statement was so inappropriate,” Trump said. “When you’re a justice of the Supreme Court — it’s almost what she’s trying is take the people who do feel a different way and get them to vote the way that she would like them to vote. I just thought it was so inappropriate, such a terrible statement for a Supreme Court statement.”
Apparently, however, the president never bothered reading exactly what Justice Sotomayor actually wrote in her dissenting opinion — which was careful not to attribute any political motivations to her fellow justices who have consistently decided in favor of the Trump administration, although they likely deserve the accusations of partisanship.
When asked by Fox News John Roberts exactly what was inappropriate about Justice Sotomayor’s words, Trump resorted to a dodge familiar to anyone dealing with someone who doesn’t have an actual clue about the topic upon which they are bloviating, claiming that everyone knows what he what he’s talking about while refusing to answer the question in any substantive way.
“You know what the statement was,” Trump replied to the journalist. When Roberts subsequently repeated an accurate summary of Sotomayor’s dissent, the president dismissed him with a curt rejoinder: “No, I don’t think that was it.”
You can watch a clip of Trump’s continued attacks on the Supreme Court and the latest episode in his persistent attacks on the rule of law in this nation — a rule to which he obviously believes that he is immune from being obligated to be subject — in the excerpt from his press conference in India below.
Trump, during news conference in India, explains that he thinks Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should recuse herself from cases involving him because she didn't support him in 2016. He also calls on Justice Sotomayor to recuse herself for an unspecified "inappropriate" statement. pic.twitter.com/fb0WqOXKvp
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 25, 2020
Trump is also likely using the attack to muddy the waters as a true conflict of interest plays out with his allies. A so-called “deep state” enemies list has been prepared for Trump by conservative activists, including Ginni Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas. This presents a troubling issue of a Justice’s family entangling in the activities of a separate branch and a man who has ample business before the Court.
By going after liberal justices in the same week, Trump is creating the illusion that this is happening on both sides. It is incumbent on us to ensure that the American people don’t fall for it.
In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that the author attended high school with Justice Sotomayor from 1968-1972, although they have not been in touch since then.
Original reporting by Peter Baker in The New York Times.
Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.