Tuesday, September 04, 2018

"Equal Justice Under Law" -- Abandoned by President Donald J. Trump

For most of us, "equal justice under law," is a national promise and ideal that is supremely important. Yes, many of us feel justice as applied is not equal and this promise is hollow. But we subscribe to the ideal, we hold it up!

Historically, our national leadership affirms "equal justice under law" -- indeed it must affirm this -- as our common objective, and a guiding principle of the Executive and Judicial branches of the government -- federal and state.

I have hesitated to begin to identify the problems that President Donald Trump creates by his various statements that have revealed a disrespect for the law and the norms that the President should uphold as a matter of custom and decorum. They are simply too numerous and frequent to spend the time.

But his tweets on September 3 criticizing U.S. Attorneys (actually criticizing the U.S. Department of Justice and Attorney General Jeff Sessions)  in bringing criminal charges on behalf of the United States against two Members of Congress because this prosecution might effect the outcome of the November 2018 elections were especially shocking.

Of course the accused Members of Congress are entitled to a presumption of innocence, but they are not entitled to impunity.

The President's tweets create the impression that he believes that his political supporters ought to not be prosecuted, even if there is probable cause to charge them with felony conduct. This is different than his pardon of former Sheriff Joe Arpaio (who lost his attempt to be a Republican nominee to the U.S. Senate from Arizona). In the exercise of his pardon authority, it is his authority in Article II, section 2. But to attack the Justice Department, which is responsible for operating under the "Equal Justice Under Law" principle in every case, demonstrates his belief that his personal moral values ought to prevail in the management and administration of the Department of Justice.

The President's cronies must never be immune from prosecution, and that President Donald J. Trump does not agree demonstrates that he does not understand the key feature of his oath of office, "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." (Article II, Section 1, last clause).

This should trouble all of us.

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