Trump’s desperate, dangerous attacks on the rule of law

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at Coastal Carolina University on February 10, 2024 in Conway, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Now that a jury has convicted DONALD TRUMP of 34 crimes, he has taken his vengeful, high-powered gunfight directly at the rule of law. Immediately after the guilty verdicts, he and his sycophants in the Republican Party began speaking out about our justice system, shouting that it time for revenge. The administration of justice, they wrongly claim, has been ‘weaponized’ and used as a ‘bludgeon’, as in ‘a banana republic’.

That’s what a party does when it has no moral compass and is willing to follow its leader, like a lemming, over the cliff. And that’s what someone as desperate as Trump does as he stares down the barrel of his lifelong nemesis: responsibility. No one is above the law.

His only escape is winning the presidency. But the latest poll shows that almost half of the country, including 52 percent of independents, think he should drop out. And he can’t simply challenge a unanimous guilty verdict on all counts by claiming that twelve ordinary citizens simply didn’t get it.

And so he and his allies attack the rule of law itself. But in doing so, they risk causing far more damage than our justice system. The rule of law is the basis of our society safety, freedomAnd economic growth; by attacking it, Trump endangers all three.

Let’s discuss each one in turn.


When the rules of society fall apart at the hands of a would-be autocrat who believes that might makes right, our future is one of violence. There is no guarantee of safety under a despot who speaks of revenge and retaliation, who feels freed from the constraints of the law and who controls state power and paramilitary groups ready to enforce obedience with fist and gun.

The proof is right in front of us. Trump just said the country will be at a “breaking point” if he is sentenced to prison. He is willing to threaten us with violence in his effort to stay out of prison.

His fan base has taken the signal and, according to NBC News, “called for riots‘ after the conviction. No one should forget how he sent permission directly to the Proud Boys over the airwaves before the last presidential election: “Stand back and stay with it.‘They did, and LED the violent invasion of the Capitol on January 6.

The history of autocracy teaches us that it is just as often the brownshirts of a strong man, and not the leader himself use brute force against those he signals are his enemies. The lights are currently flashing red on the internet among Trump supporters.

The past has Yale professor Jason Stanley noted, is full of examples of people who don’t believe the rhetoric of so-called authoritarians. “Believe what they say,” Stanley told the Associated Press. “He is literally telling you that he is going to use the state apparatus to attack his political opponents.”

So when Trump says he has a dictator on day one and when he floats the idea of ​​an anti-constitutional third term if he wins a second term, take him at his word.

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All of our freedoms are tied to the law, and to the idea that anyone, including a former president, is responsible for breaking it. If that concept holds true, so too do our rights to speak freely and criticize leaders without going to jail; to be free from violence or theft by the powerful; and to have government privacy in our homes and bedrooms, including with regard to our reproductive freedom.

On that note, experts warn that Trump could turn the high-tech of foreign intelligence services against him domestic enemies. (No wonder he was booed so vigorously at the Libertarian Party convention.)

For now, America’s longstanding system of due process protects us all. In the trial of Trump in Manhattan, he, like every other citizen, was the beneficiary of:

  • the presumption of innocence;

  • the requirement that prosecutors prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of twelve randomly selected citizens;

  • the right to representation by counsel, and his expensive lawyers vigorously cross-examined witnesses;

  • the right to call witnesses, as he did; And

  • the right not to testify, and he did not.

He had the added benefit of a judge, New York District Court Judge Juan Merchan, sitting in front of him prevent Jailing him while his serial abuse of a court order banning him from attacking the jury or witnesses would have put any other suspect behind bars. Significantly: a court of appeal turned down Trump’s untenable claim that Judge Merchan could not render a fair judgment in this case. After losing in the courts, Trump and his allies are attacking them in an effort to undermine popular confidence in the administration of justice.

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The sustainability of capitalism also depends on the rule of law; without it, the stability and credibility that are the prerequisites for our economic system would be impossible.

Law professors David and Daniel Barnhizer I summarized it well:

The rule of law in Western democracies represents the set of deeper cultural values ​​within which dynamic activity takes place and acts as a facilitator, manager and definer of the economic activity through which power is distributed and social goods are created and shared.

If we were to replace the rule of law with the impulsive will of an unpredictable leader, the risk of killing the goose that lays the golden eggs would be enormous. Simply put, capital is fleeing an unstable system where might makes right.

And if the rules designed to keep the market fair disappear, consumers will lose their ability to trust the word of sellers. Favoritism, unreliability and outbursts of violence are not the breeding grounds of trade. However, they often line the pockets of a despotic ruler and his oligarchs. Witness Putin’s Russia.


TRUMP’S ‘ATTACKS ON THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM HAVE A LONG HISTORY,’ Rutgers University Political Science Professor Lisa Miller told ABC News last week. They should be understood as “part of a broader strategy to undermine the legitimacy of any aspect of the political system or process that criticizes him or attempts to hold him accountable for his actions.”

Finally the legal system does that. Trump’s criminal conviction is not a one-off: don’t forget that two jury verdicts against him in defamation suits brought by E. Jean Carroll for lying about her, with judgments totaling $83 million. Or his $464 million verdict in the civil fraud case brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James alleging Trump’s lying to lenders. Or the Trump Organization’s criminal conviction for run a 15-year tax fraud scheme for his lies to tax authorities.

These statements mark just the beginning of Trump’s legal liability, but will end if he is re-elected. The courts are not coming to save us. Voting and encouraging others to vote because the rule of law is in danger – and with it our security, our freedoms and our economy – is the power we have to preserve it.

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