The rule of law & the recidivist in the White House

No man is above the law and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor.

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No man is above the law…

-Theodore Roosevelt

Does the need to obey the law only apply to the powerless?  Is it still true in America that no one is above the law? Can a president who has failed “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” pardon himself?

In the Trump era, these question have come to cast a dark cloud over the democratic project the founders set in motion 230 years ago in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. How ironic that for the past four years we’ve had a president who constantly puts his lack of love for anything or anybody but himself on display.

The White House dares to claim without a scintilla of evidence that voters and election officials in Pennsylvania  (state motto: “Virtue, Liberty, and Independence”) are engaged in a massive conspiracy to falsify the results, defeat the will of the people, and steal the election. It won’t work. Only fools will be fooled. 

For the first time since Reconstruction, the federal government adopted legislation to vigorously enforce the Fifteenth Amendment, which prohibited discrimination in voting on the basis of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. 

Under both national and state law, election fraud and voter suppression clearly are crimes. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been called “revolutionary in its concept”: 

But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder ruled in a 5-4 decision that federal “preclearance” of changes to voting laws and practices in states with a history of preventing  minorities from voting was no longer necessary. The 2020 election proved once again the exact opposite is true: People of color and others trying to vote in states as different as Wisconsin and Texas or Georgia and Arizona faced major obstacles that are unacceptable in any  modern political system based on the rule of law. 

The attack on voting rights is only one of the crimes for which Donald Trump and top officials in his administration must be held accountable. Children are among the many victims of this president’s cruel immigration policies, including hundreds of  infants. Separating children from parents is not only a  moral abomination but also a violation of international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other treaties. the United States has signed. 

If a leader in Serbia or Croatia had broken up families the way  Trump has done, our European allies would be calling for his arrest and trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, guaranteed. Now get this: In 1995, the United States signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child (IRC). The  United Nations had adopted the CRC on November 20, 1989. The U.S. Congress in its wisdom, however, has never ratified it. Never mind that it is “the most widely accepted human rights treaty” and that Somalia is only the only other country in the world that has not ratified it!* 

Never mind. No outrage is too big or too bold for the “very stable genius” in the White House, especially if he senses blood in the water. To wit:

1) In September, 2020, the White House ordered sanctions against two ICC officials. Keep in mind that the International Criminal Court is “a tribunal dedicated to seeking justice for victims of heinous crimes.” Also, that all of our NATO allies recognize the ICC. The only exception is—you guessed it—the United States.

2) In June, 2020, Trump issued an executive order authorizing travel and economic sanctions on persons working with the ICC. Persons working for—or with—the Open Society Justice Initiative, for instance. American citizens.

Last month Open Society filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York arguing that the executive order violates the First Amendment and “due process” clause. According to Open Society Foundation president and former U.S. ambassador, Patrick Gaspard, ‘The executive order is not only unconstitutional; it’s a perverse betrayal of U.S. values.” 

Finally, no recitation of Trump and Company’s legal liabilities would be complete without reference to criminal negligence in the way the COVID-19 pandemic was deliberately mishandled and done with open contempt for biomedical science. Here’s a single sentence from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that points to what can only be described as an indictable crime against the American people Donald Trump took an oath to protect and defend:  “An examination of relevant national statistics shows that the Trump pandemic response has led to the unnecessary deaths of more than 100,000 Americans.”

Today, as I write these words, there’s a message in my inbox informing me that the U.S. has hit another single-day record—150,000 confirmed cases. As of today, 242,435 Americans have died from this disease. With 4% of the population, we have 22% of all the COVID-19 deaths in the world. On a single day earlier this week, nearly 2,000 Americans—1,984 to be exact—died of this disease. 

Let’s be honest: Donald Trump is a lifelong rule-breaker, a recidivist who has used the powers of the presidency to commit crimes against humanity. Let’s say it: Donald Trump’s reckless behavior, his refusal to wear a mask or refrain from holding super-spreader events and rallies, his malicious, self-serving decision to downplay the worst pandemic in a century have resulted in a public health tragedy of epic proportions. Let’s not equivocate: Holding the federal officials responsible for malfeasance on this scale, starting with the recidivist in the White House who is trying to torpedo the Constitution and steal an election he lost is a moral imperative. 

Epilogue

Here’s the rest of the Teddy Roosevelt quote at the top: 

…and no man is below it: nor do we ask any man’s permission when we ask him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor.

It is worth noting that TR was a Republican. So was Abe Lincoln. And Dwight Eisenhower. A useful reminder that, in fact, there was a time, Virginia, when the Republican Party (aka, the GOP) really was grand. 

*In 1980, the U.S. signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) but it, too, has never been ratified.

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