As the Trump era finally draws to a close and the MAGA movement is forced to reckon with its sudden expulsion from power, we can expect officials who happily served in this disastrous administration over the past four years to emerge into the light, wringing their hands in faux penitence as they try to convince all of us that they truly regret having served such a cruel agenda. While it’s certainly possible that some of the men and women who planned and executed the presidents draconian police do indeed feels pangs of guilt for what they’ve done, the safest presumption to apply to most of them is that they’re simply trying to salvage their reputations and evade the consequences of their actions.
With that in mind, one can’t help but cast a critical eye on a new piece in The New York Times from Erica Newland, an attorney who worked at the Department of Justice under Trump. Her insights into the DOJ’s behavior should be examined even if her true motives for offering them up are impossible to discern for certain. That said, there does seem to be sincerity woven throughout the article.
In her piece, Newland explains that she was already working at the DOJ when Trump won the presidency in 2016, having started during the Obama years. She likens the department’s Office of Legal Counsel, where she worked, to a place “where presidents turn for permission slips that say their executive orders and other contemplated actions are lawful.”
Newland claims she “never harbored delusions” about what Trump’s presidency would entail but decided to remain in her position until she could no longer “bear it.” She claims that she wanted to serve her country by minimizing the damage but has since realized she must “reconsider that decision.”
Newland was responsible for adjusting Trump’s executive orders so that they arguably adhered to the law. She believed that by “narrowing them” she would able to make them “less destructive.” While this could be the case, it’s also the case that the failure by her and her colleagues to resign in protest and publicly come forward to denounce the president’s orders allowed truly evil policies like the Muslim ban and child separation initiatives to proceed with less scrutiny than they may have otherwise received. Newland herself admits that while they were able to diminish some of the damage, they also made the orders “more palatable to the courts.”
After the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s third stab at the Muslim ban in 2018, Newland says she felt a need to reflect on the projects she had been assigned which ranged from actions aimed at undocumented residents to shielding Trump’s naked corruption from legal consequences. Soon after, she decided that in staying she would ultimately accomplish more ill than good for the country and quit.
At the time, she thought that her colleagues who chose to remain might manage to eke out some positive outcomes. “I was wrong,” she now realizes. Newland believes that if the DOJ had responded with a more robust opposition to Trump’s actions he would have had far less success with them.
“Watching the Trump campaign’s attacks on the election results, I now see what might have happened if, rather than nip and tuck the Trump agenda, responsible Justice Department attorneys had collectively — ethically, lawfully — refused to participate in President Trump’s systematic attacks on our democracy from the beginning. The attacks would have failed,” she writes.
Newland believes that the president’s recent attempts to overturn President-elect Bide legitimate electoral win would be seen in a much harsher light if officials had left the DOJ en masse when it first became clear what kind of agenda Trump was going to pursue. She points out that had these career professionals abandoned him, the president would have been forced to rely on the hack lawyers he ultimately deployed in the wake of the election. To illustrate her point, she asks us to imagine how much different (and less successfully) the Muslim ban would have gone if it was Rudy Giuliani hired to argue for it in court.
Towards the end of her piece, Newland says she is “haunted” by her actions and admits that she and her colleagues “enabled” the very destruction they were hoping to mitigate. Regardless of their intentions, she believes they were “complicit.” She offers the country an apology and warns government lawyers to learn from her experiences going forward to ensure that what happened under Trump never happens again.
Newland appears sincere in her convictions and regrets, but like others who served under Trump, one can’t be certain that her decision to stay for two years was really rooted in a desire to minimize damage rather than a simple desire to keep a prestigious job. Ultimately, the intention matters far less than the effects and the effects are manifold and monstrous.
Read the original article here.
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