Robert Reich: Trump’s War On Courts, Press And The States – OpEd

With congressional Republicans in the majority in Congress and unwilling to cross Donald Trump, the job of containing Trump’s incipient tyranny falls to three centers of independent power: the nation’s courts, its press, and a few state governments.

Which is why Trump is escalating attacks on all three.

The judiciary

After federal Judge James Robart – an appointee of George W. Bush – stayed Trump’s travel ban last Friday, Trump leveled a personal attack on the judge. “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

This was followed by another, late Sunday night: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system.”

For a President to personally attack a federal judge who disagrees with him is a dangerous overstepping of presidential power.

As Alexander Hamilton famously wrote in the Federalist No. 78, the judiciary is the “least dangerous” branch of government because it has “no influence over either the sword or the purse.” It depends for its power and legitimacy on congress and the president.

Mike Pence tried to defend Trump, saying “the president of the United States has every right to criticize the other two branches of government. And we have a long tradition of that in this country.”

Wrong. While other presidents have publicly disagreed with court decisions, none before Trump has gone after individual judges with personal invective. None has tried to intimidate individual judges. None has questioned the legitimacy of the courts.

Trump is on the warpath against Robart because he defied Trump.

The press

Speaking to the U.S. Central Command on Monday, Trump veered off his prepared remarks to make a remarkable claim: The media was intentionally covering up reports of terrorist attacks.

“You’ve seen what happened in Paris, and Nice,” Trump told the assembled military officers. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it. They have their reasons, and you understand that.”

Trump thereby elevated his advisor Kellyanne Conway’s “Bowling Green massacre” justification for his travel ban – a massacre that she claimed the press had failed to cover, but which in fact never occurred – to a higher and vaster level of conspiracy.

What could be the press’s reason for covering up terrorist attacks, in Trump’s mind? What is it that Trump assumed the military officers “understood?”

The only possible inference is Trump believes that the press – like Judge Robart – seeks to imperil our nation, because it doesn’t cow tow to Donald Trump.

The states

State governments pose a third line of defense against Trump. Several state attorneys general have taken Trump’s travel ban to court, and one particularly large Democratic state – California – has defied him on immigration and the environment. So Trump is directed his ire against these states as well.

In a televised interview Sunday, Trump threatened to take federal dollars away from California. “We give tremendous amounts of money to California … California in many ways is out of control …. We may have to [defund California]. Certainly that would be a weapon,” he told Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly,

A weapon for what? What could Trump have been talking about? The federal government doesn’t give tremendous amounts of money to California, at least not net dollars. In fact, Californians send more tax dollars to the federal government each year than the state gets back from the federal government.

Fiscally, California isn’t “out of control.” Since 2013, the state has operated with a budget surplus. That’s more than can be said for the federal government. Or for Trump’s own business, for that matter.

Trump’s real beef is California is independent of him. It has defied Trump with its high environmental standards and “sanctuary” cities. Even worse, from his standpoint, its citizens voted against him in the 2016 election by 2 to 1, for a total of over 4 million votes. He can’t seem to get this out of his mind.

Trump has repeatedly suggested that millions of those votes were fraudulent. Last week, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer identified California as one of the “bigger states” that merit a federal probe into election fraud, adding, “That’s where I think we’re gonna look.”

But Trump has no evidence of voter fraud in California, or any other state for that matter.

For Trump, evidence is irrelevant. California needs to be taught a lesson – just as do Judge Robart and other members of the federal judiciary who defy him, just as do journalists and media outlets that criticize him. And what is that lesson? That they dare not cross Trump.

The judiciary, the press, and California are major centers of resistance to Trump, because they are independent of him. So he’s escalating his attacks on them.

Trump doesn’t want any resistance. He wants total control.


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Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary INEQUALITY FOR ALL.

3 thoughts on “Robert Reich: Trump’s War On Courts, Press And The States – OpEd

  • February 9, 2017 at 11:05 am
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    Trump is undemocratic in the so-called democratic states of United States of America. The President approach is worrisome, had this been done by an African, Asian or Latin American leader there would have been huge noise about abuse of power and victimisation of Judiciary, media and the states. Because it’s in the USA people are mum, why? Here is the attack on freedom of the judiciary, media and states in extension abuse of power and trust.

    Reply
  • February 9, 2017 at 4:50 pm
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    The troll is at it again. Little Robbie hates a blank sheet of paper, or screen, and is compelled to to fill either/or with party line nonsense. Basically his ‘we good; you bad’ dissertation leaves little to the imagination when it comes to reality: his apparently is outlined with praise for the State of California while avoiding a review of the state of the State. Taxes over the top, regulations defining everything from what to think in the can to how much water you can use. This courtesy of a dominant democratic party busily buying votes from its’ n’er-do-well and illegal constituencies, a bevy of teen age instant wealth internet geniuses and do-gooders of assorted stripes all gathered under one roof. The product, BMW, revolts on the State’s funded campuses and the troll’s minions. You can only attract so many bums, place them on the dole and register them to vote. Eventually the exodus of rational citizens tired of fascist constraints and companies tired of childish overview will empty the pot leaving you and your commissars of the swimming pool soviets stranded.
    And you have the gall to conduct a party line attack on a newly elected President of the United States who won on the premise of ‘draining the swamp.’ Is your water level beginning to alarm you?

    Reply
  • February 9, 2017 at 5:09 pm
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    This is good. A major housecleaning by Trump is in order.

    Reply

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