Sat, Jun 03, 2017 - Page 9 News List

When politicians bully, judges and journalists need to stand firm

By Richard Ackland  /  The Guardian

“We had a very smooth roll out of the travel ban, but we had a bad court. We’ve had a bad decision,” US President Donald Trump said at his White House press conference after the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit restrained his executive order affecting seven Muslim countries.

For good measure, the US president added that the ninth circuit “is in chaos ... that circuit is frankly in turmoil.”

When federal “so-called” Judge James Robart made the initial order to block Trump’s executive ban, the US president tweeted: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”

On Thursday last week, an appeals court refused to reinstate Trump’s travel ban.

When another judge blocked the US president’s order to withhold funding from cities and towns that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities, the White House put out a statement that read: “[The] San Francisco judge’s erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country... This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge.”

Judges get no respect from the US president, unless they are a hand-picked “originalist” like Neil Gorsuch, his US Supreme Court appointment. The White House ceremony announcing his nominee to a bunch of claqueurs was a sight for sore eyes. Like a sideshow barker, Trump introduced Gorsuch and “his wonderful wife Louise ... Here they come. So was that a surprise — was it?”

This was the appointment that had been stolen from the Democrats, because the US Senate refused to consider former US president Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to replace the recently departed Antonin Scalia.

“The presumption should be that Gorsuch does not deserve confirmation, because the process that led to his nomination was illegitimate,” the New York Times said.

Judges who do not toe the line are bad judges in bad courts. Illegitimate appointments of judges who are dyed-in-the-wool conservatives are “brilliant.”

This is the world of a president who has a distorted grasp of the constitutional construct and his place in it. Little wonder that he wants to be judge and executioner.

One of his many obsessions during the election campaign was the US soldier Sergeant Bowe Bergdhal, who went missing from his unit in Afghanistan and was captured by the Taliban, until released in a swap with Guantanamo prisoners.

Bergdhal now faces a court martial, but as far as Trump is concerned, he has already been found guilty.

“He deserted. Remember the old days? A deserter, what happened? Bang. Twenty years ago it was bang,” he told a slathering mod of supporters and just to ram it home he gave a rifle-shooting gesture.

We also saw this failure to grasp constitutional niceties and the separation of powers when he sought to fix the FBI’s investigation into the role Russia played in last year’s US presidential election. Maybe it also slipped his mind that the first article of former US president Richard Nixon’s impeachment was “obstruction of justice.”

We saw it too with his less-than-perfect grasp of the first amendment: “I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.”

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