A Dark Day For America

[ Posted Monday, July 1st, 2024 – 15:44 UTC ]

President Joe Biden now has absolutely nothing to fear from picking up the phone and ordering SEAL Team Six to assassinate Donald Trump. Or perhaps (and more to the point) ordering them to take out two or three Supreme Court justices. These would all be "official acts" of a sitting United States president (the commander in chief giving an order to the military), and therefore Biden would be completely immune from any fear of prosecution afterwards. That is what the Supreme Court just ruled, today.

This hypothetical extreme scenario was even specifically discussed when the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case. In a scathing dissent, Justice Sotomayor pointed out this egregious flaw in the majority's ruling, and what it could lead to for any president:

Orders the Navy's SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.

Let the President violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew that he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be. That is the majority's message today.

She's right. That is indeed the world we apparently now live in. A president can do anything (as long as it is an "official act") and never have to worry about consequences. Sotomayor's conclusion was right, too -- the Supreme Court has made the president into "a king above the law." Richard Nixon was actually correct, according to this court: "When the president does it, that means it is not illegal." The concept of "no man is above the law" is now dead and buried -- at least until some future court revisits this ruling and chucks it onto the garbage pile of other historic wrongs from the high court (right next to the Dred Scott case, perhaps).

For the time being, though, the sky is the limit. Presidents can now order their Justice Department to do anything at all, including attempting to overturn a free and fair election. The concept of an independent Justice Department is another casualty of today's ruling.

Of course, I don't expect Joe Biden to flex this newfound power in any sort of extreme or monstrous fashion. I seriously doubt he would order the assassination of anyone, to put it another way. But the same doesn't hold true for Donald Trump. We've already seen the monstrousness of his extremism, and should he retake office he will now have a gigantic green light to order anything that pops into his head. That is a truly terrifying thought.

Donald Trump was already basing his campaign on the concept of "retribution." He is out for revenge, and if he becomes president again he now has a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card from the highest court in the land. The concept of "checks and balances" is dead -- there will be nothing to stop Trump from doing anything he wants to anyone he wishes.

The only possible thing that could stop Trump is having someone refuse his order. If any president actually did pick up the phone and try to order a member of the military to assassinate someone in cold blood, the proper response would be: "Respectfully, Sir, I cannot obey that order because it is illegal." That might actually happen, since members of the military are indeed trained to refuse unlawful orders, but what about all the other people who are not so trained? Trump is going to populate his executive branch with all manner of toadies and sycophants, with the only requirement for serving being complete and utter loyalty to Donald Trump. If an attorney general refused to follow Trump's orders, he or she would be immediately replaced. Trump already did this sort of thing in his first term, but now he'll be completely unconstrained in the orders he gives to his attorney general, the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the Border Patrol, and every other lever of the federal government.

Members of the military are trained to refuse illegal orders because the Nuremburg trials after World War II decreed that "I was just following orders" is not a good enough excuse to escape punishment for committing crimes. But of course there is another way to escape punishment, and that is to be pardoned. Any president could promise such a pardon in advance, when giving an order for someone else to break the law. And Donald Trump has already proven he has no qualms about pardoning his minions and stooges. This puts not only the president but everyone who follows his orders above the law.

Even if Donald Trump loses the election, this odious Supreme Court ruling will remain. Even if Trump won't be the first president with a gigantic green light for all illegal acts (as long as they are "official," of course), the danger will still exist. Any future president of any political persuasion will know that they can get off scot-free for just about anything under the sun. And there are plenty of unscrupulous politicians out there who understand what this "L'état, c'est moi" thinking could allow. Sooner or later one of them will indeed use presidential power to achieve evil ends.

According to the Supreme Court, there is now nothing anyone can do to stop them -- even after they leave office. This is a dark day for America. The highest court in the land has given carte blanche to any president to do anything. The bedrock of our legal system now lies in tatters, since it now reads: "No man is above the law... except the president... and anyone the president gives an official order to, of course...." A dark day indeed -- and one that will come back to haunt us all.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


9 Comments on “A Dark Day For America”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Yep, mendacity is the order of the day.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, there is always the process of impeachment for the most outrageous acts by a president, official or otherwise.

    Of course, Congress will have to be fixed first. But, Congress is only as good as the people in it and the people who voted them in.

    America is in bad shape, there are no two ways about it. And, we haven't even touched on US foreign policy ... under the Biden administration, no less!

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The concept of "no man is above the law" is now dead and buried -- at least until some future court revisits this ruling and chucks it onto the garbage pile of other historic wrongs from the high court (right next to the Dred Scott case, perhaps).

    This is yet another argument for adjusting the Democratic message this election campaign to ask voters to deliver enough Democrats to Congress so that Dems control the WH and both houses of Congress. That may be the only way Biden gets a Supreme Court appointment should a seat there become open at some point during his second term.

  4. [4] 
    Bleyd wrote:

    EM [2]
    There's a flaw in that reasoning though. The president can simply order the assassination of any House member who might vote to impeach him, or any Senator who might vote to convict. Or for that matter, anyone who would even attempt an impeachment inquiry. Who would be willing to even try to hold the President to account if he could simply order you killed for doing so? That's how dictators like Putin remain in power after all.

  5. [5] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Everyone is so quick to off the other side...a more interesting tactic would be to pick up Trump and a few of the more conservative justices in unmarked vans and bring them to a CIA black site, or high end hotel marked as such, and then basically blackmail congress and the states to pass an emergency constitutional amendment to fix this wrong. Want your candidate back? Those conservative justices? Well, a constitutional amendment would force the hand and Biden would be required to release them...

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    There's a flaw in that reasoning though.

    Just one? :)

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Speaking of dark days ... the president doesn't seem to be taking my advice. And, the WH press corps is still acting like the ignorant and rude loudmouths they are.

    The fact of the matter is that there is no love lost - not even in the very least - between Biden and the press, going back to 1988.

    But, yesterday, following remarks about the SCOTUS presidential immunity ruling, Biden demonstrated that he is no longer able to take the unruly bunch on and his team doesn't even know how to rein them in. This could have been a mini-presser extraordinaire as Biden, even in his reduced means, has forgotten more about the high court than any of those WH reporters will ever know.

    If Biden couldn't take advantage in this particular situation, then there may be no hope...

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ... no hope, I mean, in convincing those who need convincing (and I'm not one of them, to be clear) that he continues to be capable of being president.

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