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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Supreme Court joins Trump in efforts to destroy democracy

The immunity decision by the court has left many fearing that democracy and our way of life is sliding headling into Trump's toxic sewer
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People hold anti-Trump signs in front of the Supreme Court on July 1, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (DREW ANGERER/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The sad legacy of the devolution of the United States Supreme Court came crashing down on what little is left of law, order and justice when the extreme hard right-wing majority turne the presidency into a monarchy.

In a 6-3 vote, the Supremes widened the immunity of presidents to allow them to break the law openly while in office and while out of office and convicted of felony and crimes against the state.

“Immunity ruling escalates the long ride of presidential power,” writes Charlie Savage in The New York Times. “Beyond Donald J. Trump, the decision adds to the seemingly one way ratchet of executive authority.”

He adds:

The Supreme Court’s decision to bestow presidents with immunity from prosecution over official actions is an extraordinary expansion of executive power that will reverberate long after Donald J. Trump is gone.

Beyond its immediate implications for the election subversion case against Mr. Trump and the prospect that he may feel less constrained by law if he returns to power, the ruling also adds to the nearly relentless rise of presidential power since the mid-20th century.

It had seemed like a constitutional truism in recent years when more than one lower-court opinion addressing novel legal issues raised by Mr. Trump’s norm-breaking behavior observed that presidents are not kings. But suddenly, they do enjoy a kind of monarchical prerogative.

“The relationship between the president and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in an outraged dissent joined by the court’s other two liberals. “In every use of official power, the president is now a king above the law.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, who surprised many by joining in wiht the majority, claims otherwise.

“Unlike anyone else,” he wrote, “the president is a branch of government, and the Constitution vests in him sweeping powers and duties.”

“Accounting for that reality — and ensuring that the president may exercise those powers forcefully, as the framers anticipated he would — does not place him above the law; it preserves the basic structure of the Constitution from which that law derives.”

Say what?

Legal scholars express disgust, surprise and sadess over the court’s latest move, driiven the the hard-right majority appointed by Trump, who is trying to wring another slection of president after losing his bid for re-election four years ago.

Others say the swing began years ago. Savage writes:

The historian Arthur C. Schlesinger Jr. famously described this pattern as “the imperial presidency” in a 1973 book. The surge peaked with Nixon, who later summed up his philosophy of executive power as “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

The trend briefly flagged in the mid-1970s because of Watergate, the Vietnam War and a congressional investigation that uncovered domestic intelligence abuses by administrations of both parties. In this period, Congress tried to restore checks and balances with a series of new laws and oversight actions.

But starting with the Reagan administration in the 1980s, those restraints began to erode again. Ronald Reagan and his team sought to push an activist conservative policy agenda in the face of resistance from a Congress long controlled by Democrats.

As a result, lawyers in his administration developed constitutional theories that would allow Reagan to do what he wanted even if Congress said otherwise. Among them, for example, was the so-called unitary executive theory, which says Congress cannot fracture a president’s control of the executive branch by bestowing independent decision-making authority on, say, a regulatory agency.

To be sure, Democratic presidents have pushed the envelope on discrete issues, too. Executive power often acts like a one-way ratchet: It is easier to increase than to roll back again, as one president’s innovations become a base line of precedents for his successor of either party to build upon when a perceived need arises.

But the political contingencies of the Reagan era led its push to expand presidential power to be absorbed into the conservative legal movement that was also spreading in the same period, and has come to shape ambitious Republican lawyers.

Over time, that attitude has migrated into the upper ranks of the judiciary as Republican presidents have nominated lawyers who were not just ideologically conservative but also had backgrounds in the executive branch.

Three members of the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority — Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — were Reagan administration lawyers.

Two others, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, worked for the George W. Bush administration. It advanced a broad view of a president’s exclusive constitutional powers, especially in the sort of national security matters that frequently arose after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Only Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a former law professor, never worked as a lawyer for the executive branch. Notably, even as she joined the majority opinion, she issued a more restrained concurrence, siding with the dissent on whether prosecutors should at least be able to tell juries about a president’s official actions if they are relevant context for understanding unofficial actions he is being prosecuted for.

Some legal experts say the ruling clears the way for proseuction of Trump for his many crimes to fade away and increases his chances to win in November Others feel the 2024 electrion and the power grab by Trump and his “MAGA” troops could bring an end to democracy and, perhaps, even elections.

In the video, judges say “i frear for the democracy:

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