Why Trump is going after the judiciary

Donald Trump’s attack on a federal judge who ruled against him as being an ‘Obama judge’ and thus acting in a biased way resulted in an unusual rebuke from US Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts who decried adding labels to federal judges once they are on the bench, declaring that they should be presumed to be above partisan interests. To no one’s surprise, Trump did not take Robert’s comments lying down and has issued a new series of tweets against the judiciary.

It is not unreasonable to be skeptical of the claim of judicial neutrality. While judges are constrained by the law and precedents, they do have their own views on matters and these can come into play when there is some leeway in how they interpret the law and make rulings.

But the interesting thing is why Trump went after the judiciary at all. It has now become abundantly clear, and even admitted to by Trump, that his relentless attacks on the media were a deliberate plan to discredit them in the eyes of his supporters so that when they inevitably report negatively on his atrocious words and actions and the failures of his policies, his supporters will think that the news is false and the result of partisan bias. Trump is similarly seeking to preemptively discredit the judiciary as biased and partisan against him so that if and when they decide against him, he can tell his faithful base that it is all part of a conspiracy by those who dislike his efforts to make America great again.

Undermining confidence in the judiciary is a dangerous move that has unpredictable consequences. The question is what the judiciary can do in response. They are limited in their options and Roberts’s words are about as far as we are likely to see them go. But there is no limit to how far Trump wants to take this. Can we expect to see Trump at his rallies rail against judges who rule against him by name and encourage his rabid fans to boo at the mention of them and chant “lock them up!”? It would not surprise me at all.


  1. ridana says

    As with pretty much everything Trump does, this isn’t new, he just takes it farther than Republicans have dared to before (which is probably the main reason they support him now). They’ve been demonizing the judiciary with the epithet “activist judges” for at least a decade or more -- unless of course those activist judges are “making laws from the bench” that they like.

    But at this point he’s attacked pretty much every institution and branch of government, including the executive with his questioning Pence’s loyalty, and every country but Russia, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Finland and Norway. When he runs out of targets (can’t wait for Fox News to do something to get on his bad side), will he just start his list over with renewed and more vicious attacks, or will he try to eliminate them, regardless of his legal authority to do so?

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Even without Bannon in the White House, Trump seems likely to figure out the Andrew Jackson approach (“They made their ruling -- now they can [try to] enforce it!”) once the judges rule against him.

    At present, the biggest close-to-home threat from the judiciary looks like the charges impending against the three eldest Trump-spawn from their shenanigans with the eponymous Foundation’s money. If/when the gavel comes down with orders for prison time, I rather doubt the Secret Service will try to obstruct federal marshals or NY state troopers from hauling aforesaid brats off to the calabozo -- but if, say, Erick, Donnie, ‘n’ Ivanka lock themselves in the Lincoln Bedroom, hilarity will surely ensue.

  3. Art says

    One of the favored outcomes of the fascists in post-WWI Germany was the disruption of as many social and government structures as possible. Even if the fascists couldn’t win political and legal battles and debates they would always try to leave as much chaos behind as possible. Upsetting the chess board and storming off was seen as almost as good as winning the game.

    One by one every social structure and norm was whip-sawed and battered into complete dysfunction. The fascists knew that when the German people felt that nothing worked and were at the wit’s end as to how to cope many of them would grasp the fascist offering. The average citizen would swallow hard and accept a return to order through whatever means were necessary. Including suppression of dissent through violence and intimidation. In a short while they would be singing the praises of the bullies who brought order out of chaos and questioning their distaste for violence.

    Never mind that it was the fascists who created the dysfunction and chaos through the well timed and focused (at first primarily focused upon the selected scapegoat minority) use of violence and intimidation. making the nation ungovernable through any but the most brutal means is a step toward justifying those brutal means. Showing you are willing to use violence puts you at the head of the lien to rule the chaotic nation. They are working to create a disease that only they have the apparent expertise in bullying and violence cure.

    It is a self-licking ice cream cone.

  4. aashiq says

    He wants to take it all down, and the media is helping because doing so is immensely profitable. He is the news of the day on all networks.

    His “foreign policy” is to generate IOUs from countries like Saudi Arabia, Russia and China so that his family can later build projects and financially benefit, as they collect on these IOUs.

    To he credit, he is charmingly open about his intent.

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