Donald Trump’s sensational indictment has attracted predictably depressing reactions. Regardless of the indictment’s pretext —which is flimsy at best — Americans must defend the rule of law from partisan attack. Unfortunately, almost every right wing commentator and elected Republican has defended Trump’s attacks on the legal process.
Ron DeSantis is no exception. Although the Florida governor is widely expected to challenge ‘The Donald’ in 2024, and the pair’s relationship has recently broken down, he immediately condemned the process as political and confirmed that Florida would not cooperate with any request for Trump’s extradition to New York. This flagrant disregard for Article Four, Section Two of the Constitution serves as another reminder of DeSantis’ callous disregard for the rule of law.
It’s exceedingly likely that one of DeSantis, Trump, or incumbent President Joe Biden will take the presidential oath in January 2025. One of them will pledge in front of God, the Chief Justice, and American people that they will “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States”. Their records suggest that none would make good on that promise.
Trump’s current charges represent the least of his legal mischief. There is an active federal investigation into his attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat to determine whether he conspired to convene false electors. Additionally, a grand jury continues to investigate a phone call in which Trump urged Georgia’s chief election official to ‘find’ the 11,780 votes necessary to overcome Joe Biden’s margin of victory in the state.
Trump’s disregard for the law doesn’t stop at personal misdeeds. After the Las Vegas hotel shooting in 2017, then-President Trump briefly considered the Second and Fourth Amendments to be advisory when he endorsed a “take the guns first, go through due process second” solution to gun violence. Again in 2019, he broke the law when he withheld military aid from Ukraine to force President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to feed him information on Joe and Hunter Biden’s relationship to a large Ukrainian energy company. For this, he was rightly impeached.
Like most Republicans, DeSantis has defended Trump’s lawlessness to the hilt, even using it as a blueprint for his own political conduct. Like Trump, DeSantis isn’t a fan of constitutional checks on his power, particularly the First Amendment. He spearheaded the passage of a law designed to force tech platforms to host speech which violated their terms of service. Despite claiming that the law was designed to stop censorship, it has long been established the First Amendment prohibits using the power of the state to compel speech — which includes forcing private individuals or groups to host certain content.
Consider his Stop WOKE Act, which implements sweeping new restrictions on school teaching about social issues like race and sexuality. Legally, the government has plenty of discretion on what is taught in state-run schools, but the legislation is extremely vague and constitutes a clear attempt by DeSantis to crack down on speech he considers unfavourable.
That brings us to Joe Biden. His attempts to undermine the rule of law are less flashy and more technical, but nonetheless numerous. Despite several failed attempts to legislate for student debt ‘forgiveness’, Biden decided one day that the president actually has the right to do it unilaterally. He then issued an executive order nullifying half a trillion dollars in federal student loans.
Like Trump and DeSantis, Biden has a pattern of ignoring constitutional checks on his own power. He has taken sweeping and arbitrary unilateral action to expand government surveillance on gun purchases. His administration has also reinstated a Trump-era border policy establishing a presumption against the validity of asylum claims, despite it being repeatedly ruled unlawful.
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Whole Women’s Health Organization to nix the constitutional right to abortion, Biden said: “This decision is the culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law.” Biden could have defended the legitimacy of the Court or elevated the standard of public debate by critically analysing its decision. But that would have been asking way too much. Biden took the easy way out and fanned partisan flames, threatening judicial legitimacy.
Without even touching on Trump’s repeated pushes for politically-motivated investigations against Hillary Clinton, DeSantis’ dismissal of a local prosecutor whose charging decisions he doesn’t like, or Biden’s rogue federal eviction ban during the pandemic, the evidence is damning. The three favourites to be the next president, including the incumbent and his predecessor, pose an active threat to the rule of law which underpins America’s liberty and prosperity. If we want to uphold and restore America’s proud liberal heritage, a candidate with more respect for it must put themselves forward.
Harrison Griffiths is a political commentator with Young Voices and a communications officer at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a free-market think tank in Westminster. He has written for publications including City AM, The American Spectator, and the Foundation for Economic Education. He has also made broadcast appearances on GB News, Times Radio, and TalkTV.