The past week has been dominated by discussions of President Donald Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries. On Friday, a federal judge placed a nationwide injunction on the ban, prohibiting its enforcement.
Saturday morning, Trump responded.
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” he tweeted.
Let us ignore the dubious veracity of those latter claims and instead focus on the first part of his rambling pontification. So-called judge? Trump tweeted critically of the judge four more times on Saturday and once more on Sunday.
This, of course, is not Trump’s first flirtation with condemnation of the judiciary as an institution. Last year, Trump was excoriated by his own party for denigrating Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who oversaw the fraud suit surrounding Trump University. (Trump settled with the victims of that ploy for $25 million.)
However, this time, the stakes are much higher.
Fascists quickly go to war with the three institutions capable of holding them back: the press, the bureaucracy and the judiciary. Trump has already declared war on the first two, and appears to be arranging his figurative tanks along the border with the third.
The silence from the Republican Party is deafening. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a longtime Trump critic, issued his trite condemnation, and Vice President Mike Pence, long a master of obfuscation in the post-fact world of Trump, attempted to rearrange Trump’s inciting comments into responsible, restrained criticism. But the vast majority of the GOP appears willing to accept this.
I’ve asked this before and I will ask it again: Do the rank-and-file Republicans, the ones in Congress who would provide the votes to impeach Trump and end this national nightmare, have any red line past which this would not stand? I do not think so. Paul Ryan and his brethren are pathetic cowards willing to betray their country and its values, all for the ability to hold fleeting power.
The Constitution is but a piece of paper. Judicial orders are but pieces of paper. The U.S. marshals are people with guns who are directly tasked with enforcing them. On the other hand, the military is a larger group of people (with more guns) who report to the president.
Trump’s attack on the judiciary should scare us all — he rule of law works because the larger group of people with guns assents to the smaller when they enforce pieces of paper.
We can recover from a carny using the presidency to enrich himself and his friends. It’s harder to recover from a fascist demagogue who destroys our checks and balances. Just ask Germany.
Horwitz is a first-year law student from Houston. He is a senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz