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Monday, July 2, 2018

Has Trump Taken Over the Supreme Court?

No.  Not yet.  But he’s close. 

It was always improbable that this overblown ego-driven man would run for president, win the office, and then let go of his controls (if there were ever any) completely.  Biographers of his presidency all concur that Trump himself was very surprised by winning.  His original plan was to lose and then capitalize on his loss in big financial and superstar ways.  But win he did!  And, in spite of a wife who only married him for his money and wept when she learned she would have to be the FLOTUS (a term she had to learn as one of many in any immigrant’s struggle with the complexities of the English language), Trump was delighted by the opportunity to run the world!  What a coup!

The man doesn’t play by the rules.  He never understood them.  He doesn’t want to understand them.  For Donald J. Trump it’s okay to be someone who routinely takes advantage of others.  A few bad almost-broke periods aside, DJT has always had money and happily gulped down more even if he had to bribe officials, skirt the law, take money from his followers by lying to them about the frauds he was committing (see Trump University).  It didn’t matter when he was caught bragging about grabbing women’s pussies—hell, he could get away with that even in a world where such things were ruining the careers of powerful and surprised men who did exactly the same thing.  Donald Trump is above consequences!

Plus he doesn’t need to know what other people’s rules are.  He makes his own.  Donald Trump can read, but he doesn’t.  His staff tried to give him memos, and he wouldn’t read them.  There is no evidence he has ever read a book from cover to cover, and that would include “The Art of the Deal,” which was completely written by the man listed as “coauthor” and who now is ashamed of it, donating his profits to charities.

When Trump was first installed in office I (stupidly) assumed he’d change: stop tweeting, act presidential, behave with a new sense of responsibility.

Instead he set about establishing himself as king of the world.  Why not?  His whole life has been improbable.  Becoming the 45th President of the United States was merely the next step.  Now he can repeal all the things about government he doesn’t like, which is most everything, and run the country from the Oval Office.  He doesn't need a Congress.  Hell, they are so divided they haven’t done anything for almost a decade.  Yes, the judiciary has been a pesky problem.  Annoyingly they think they’re better than him, more important than Donald Trump, overseeing his programs and stopping Trumpian progress.

Well the solution to that is to put his men (and the occasional woman) on the bench.  Make them young, very conservative, willing to kiss his hand, and let them line up behind him like other federal officials.  Neil Gorsuch almost was yanked as his first choice for the Supreme Court when he (rashly) stated he wasn’t necessarily beholden to Donald as the confirmation process was going on, but time has shown that he’s behind his nominator all the way, case by case, day by day.  And Trump has been filling the lower federal courts with similar men (and the occasional woman) in large numbers.  

I’ve written recently about how the possible retirement of the swing-voter on the United State Supreme Court, Anthony Kennedy, might upset everything by retiring as soon as the Court’s term ended in June, and, damn it, that’s what he did.  Justice Kennedy, historically in the middle, with four liberals on one side and four conservatives on the other, has been the most powerful judge in the world for years now.  He wrote opinions supporting gay rights and pro-choice, but then held in Citizens United that corporations were “people” too and had the right to contribute billions to electing whomever they wanted in all U.S. elections.  But if Kennedy had held on for only one more year Trump couldn’t have replaced him with a true steadfast conservative.  However, citing a need in his old age (he’s 81) to spend time with his family, he ignored that issue.  Making it easier was that Trump and his advisors have been courting Kennedy for some time, almost begging him to retire now, before the November elections, and assuring him that his replacement would be a stellar one, probably one of his former clerks like Neil Gorsuch; see  Surprisingly we now learn that Kennedy’s son was a major financial player in helping Trump get loans in bad times, which caused eyebrows to be raised when it recently came to light.  At the end of Trump's first State of the Union Address as he was leaving the room he shook hands with the members of the Supreme Court present and casually said to Kennedy, "Say hello to your son---he's a good man."  Hmm.

Trump and Kennedy

Why couldn’t Trump have replaced Kennedy with a true conservative if he’d have waited to retire next year?  Because the Democrats are likely to do very well indeed in the November election, possibly taking over both the House and the Senate, and there is no way the new Senate would have confirmed a Scalia (who believed gays to be sinners and abortion murder).  Trump would have been forced to nominate a moderate or leave the ninth seat on the Court vacant.

Ah well, that didn’t happen. Now Trump will be extra careful to pick someone who, once on the Court, won’t suddenly find a heart and vote for liberal plaintiffs (as Justice David Souter did after the first Bush nominated him).  He has already lined up some possible nominees who will vote for whatever result pleases their president, making sure they frequently get to dine at the White House with the Great Man.

What's next?  Well, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was once willing to delay things for eight months when Obama nominated a liberal for the Court, but these days he wants immediate confirmation of whatever far right conservative Trump picks (someone Trump insists must be young enough to be on the Court for 40+ years).  But McConnell has only a 51-49 majority, and if that majority doesn’t hold the nomination won’t go through.  McConnell is hoping John McCain might be healthy enough to vote for the nominee, and for the two female Senators who are pro-choice to be kept in the fold even if the nominee has a tattoo on his chest saying “Roe v. Wade is Dust!  McConnell might also dream that three Democratic senators in states Trump carried by huge margins might be afraid to buck Trump’s nominee, but their Democratic base would be very unhappy if they voted to confirm a knuckle-dragger for the Supreme Court.

[Click to enlarge]

One depressing thought: if the Senate vote on Trump's new nominee is tied 50-50, Vice President Pence will enjoy breaking the tie.  Sad. 

And here’s an even sadder thought: if Hilary had won the presidency we would already have a liberal majority on the Court and Kennedy’s retirement would have merely added to that majority, making it 6 -3.

The next few months are going to be a political maelstrom.  Stay tuned.

Related Posts:

“A Supreme Court Crisis: The Momentous Retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy,” June 6, 2018;

“Trump University: A Fraudster for President”? March 10, 2016;

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