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Radley Balko: The Supreme Court's Trump decision is 'its worst decision in my lifetime'

3 min read

Recommended: At The Watch, Radley Balko excoriates the Roberts-led Supreme Court for its risible and outlandish decision to immunize (Republican) presidents against the rule of law. It's a longer piece that's definitely worth the read.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Trump v. United States is its worst decision of my lifetime. John Roberts’s sloppy, arrogant, contradictory majority opinion provides license for any future president to lie, cheat, steal, suppress dissent, and — if they have the stomach for it — assassinate. It obliterates a guardrail for executive power that’s fundamental to a functioning democracy. So fundamental, in fact, that until the country elected an aspiring autocrat brazen enough to engage in open-air corruption, it was a guardrail few thought necessary to actually define. Of course the president can be prosecuted for actual crimes.

When Trump initially made his claim of “absolute immunity” for presidents from criminal charges, it was widely derided among constitutional scholars as a hopeless Hail Mary. Then John Roberts answered Trump’s prayers.

This opinion isn’t a stain on Roberts’s legacy. It is his legacy. He will be remembered as the “institutionalist” who destroyed the legitimacy of the institution entrusted to his care. And if that’s the worst of the damage, we’ll all be lucky.

There's been dozens of good pieces blasting the astonishing insincerity—no, the out-and-out crooked flimflammery—of Roberts' arguments in Trump v. United States. Dozens isn't enough. Explaining all the different ways Roberts blunders his way through fraudulent historical readings and tortured attempts at logic while pompously sniveling at the unwashed masses of historians and fellow justices who point out his errors should be turned into a new national event. Every year, on the date of the Trump decision, our airwaves should be handed over to a new historian who can regale us, with the help of animation, hand puppets, or extremely drunken actors, with their own particular take on just how large an ass Roberts made of himself in his efforts to block prosecution of the first American president to ever attempt a coup. We can call it Get A Load Of This Guy Day, and hand out balloons and walk around wearing black robes while throwing pies at each other.

The only way you can come up with the notion that Actually, the nation's founders wanted presidents to possess monarchical powers and commit crimes with impunity, so long as they did so in their "official" capacity as president, is to either be a crook or a fool. It's just not a plausible claim; we have their writings, we know the arguments and tone and even petty insults used in each of their carefully penned squabbles, and we know that the writers of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution believed imperial-minded tyranny to be the primary danger posed to and by governments. That was their bit. That was their obsession.

This isn't a case of John Roberts and his accomplices not reading the assigned material. They certainly read it. They simply felt that the need to immunize Donald Trump, of all people, against the consequences of his violence-provoking, hoax-premised attempted coup was so urgent a need as to be worth their own debasement.

As for the why of it, we'll likely be debating that for the next 200 years. Or perhaps it's more simple, and Roberts will turn out to have been gifted a new vacation home in exchange for those last scraps of his dignity.

The Supreme Court folds
Faced with the most potent threat to democracy in more than a century, our most revered institution didn’t just fail to hold, it aligned itself with the threat

Read it at The Watch.

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