Trump’s assault on the rule of law

Joseph Kukral, Op/Ed Editor

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Upon receiving word of the verdict in the recent trial of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump solemnly told reporters, “I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.” He extended the severity of this supposedly tragic event by stating, “It’s a very sad day for our country.” It must be a sad day when a thug who has defrauded the United States government and evaded taxes is held responsible for his illegal actions.

At the Federal District Court of Alexandria, Virginia on August 21, Manafort was convicted on eight counts of tax and financial fraud. Donald Trump, in his typical bumbling and unwitting manner, attempted to characterize Manafort as a victim when it is plainly obvious the conviction rests on fact and is rightly deserved.

The response of the president regarding Manafort elucidates an important matter. It reveals Trump’s aim to delegitimize any legal actions brought against parties affiliated with him, irrespective of their legal basis, merit or prospect of serving justice. Although he consistently fails to demonstrably argue why such cases or filings may be illegitimate, he always succeeds at claiming something utterly laughable about them — for instance, his claim that the Manafort conviction is cause for all Americans to be sad.

The important matter to emphasize, however, is his utter disrespect for something he promised he would restore: the rule of law. The United States is now in the midst of an existential crisis because the chief executive does not understand the importance of obeying and conferring authority on the law when he is charged with administering it.

Similarly, his measure of a civil servant’s worth is not their allegiance to the United States or the Constitution, but rather their willingness to kiss the ring. Trump contemptuously ridiculed Attorney General Jeff Sessions, when Sessions elected for his own recusal from the Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Any prudent Justice Department official would have advised Sessions to elect recusal, considering the potential conflict of interest he would pose due to his involvement on the campaign. However, when speaking on the matter, Trump scorned Sessions with ire and frustration, explaining he only hired Sessions because he “felt loyalty.” One can recall the congressional testimony of James Comey, the former FBI director who claimed Trump asked for his loyalty.

Trump is also implicated in criminal behavior. Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen stated in court that the campaign finance violations he committed during the 2016 presidential election were executed “in coordination and at the direction of a candidate for federal office,” presumably Trump. In addition to commingling with Cohen, Trump permitted four others who are now convicted criminals to have access to his campaign. Michael Flynn, the top national security advisor during the campaign, was accorded the responsibility of briefing Trump on matters concerning foreign affairs. Only after 24 days of serving in the Trump administration, he was fired for lying to authorities about communications with Russia.

This type of behavior is the antithesis of a properly functioning executive governed by the rule of law. However, the aforementioned behavior is not as alarming as the idolatry Trump maintains for dictators. His praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin is chilling insofar as he would confer trust onto Putin, a foreign adversary, before any of his American intelligence officials, as evidenced by his behavior in Helsinki.

His lawlessness is unbounded; his thinking is devoid of any logic; and his presidential leadership lacks anything remotely presidential. Although one could say his leadership ability is apt when it comes to leading goons and the absent-minded.

If Trump continues to explore the bounds of lawless behavior, who or what will stop him? Ironically, during the campaign, Trump promised to order a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton for all of her supposed lawlessness, but currently it is Trump himself who is stricken with acrimony because of the criminals he has enlisted to do the devil’s bidding.T