The Dictatorial Trump Court Has Put Our Democracy’s Rule of Law on Quicksand

Image by Darren Halstead.

The six “corporate state” U.S. Supreme Court Justices, occupying unaccountable lifetime unelected positions, handed over dictatorial power for presidents and corporations that disassembled our Founders’ Constitution and the centerpiece of the American Revolution. In one week!

Led by the notorious Trump v. United States case these interwoven and dictatorial commands will live in infamy unless reversed or over-ridden by a constitutional amendment.

The paramount goal of our Revolution, starting with the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, was to end King George III’s iron rule over the American colonies and vaccinate the country against another “King George.”

Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion in Trump v. United States (a 6 to 3 decision) undid the American Revolution. He decreed that presidents are absolutely immune from criminal prosecution for their core official acts (including starting wars of aggression or defying scores of Congressional subpoenas), “presumptively immune” for all other acts to be defeated by an infinitely opaque legal standard of “we’ll know it when we see it.”

Roberts refrained from providing a single hypothetical to illustrate his categories, except all exchanges with and orders to the Justice Department are immune, for instance, bribing the Attorney General to indict a political opponent on trumped up charges. Sonia Sotomayor’s powerful dissent stepped into the breach.

She asserted without dispute from Roberts that the majority had invented a “law-free zone” entrusting the president with a “loaded weapon” for future occupants of the White House to brandish. Specifically, “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.” She added that never in U.S. history have presidents had more confidence that they would be immune from prosecution for crimes of any sort.

“Moving forward, all former presidents will be cloaked in such immunity,” she wrote. If the occupant of that office misuses official power for personal gain, the criminal law that the rest of us must abide by will not provide a backstop.”

In short, Roberts and his clique of five other authoritarians have re-installed the doctrine of “The King Can Do No Wrong,” that was total ANATHEMA TO OUR FOUNDERS AND FRAMERS OF OUR CONSTITUTION.

Constitutional law specialist, Bruce Fein, declared that Roberts’ decision itself was unconstitutional, citing provisions in the Constitution including Article 2, section 3 the “Take care” clause that the laws be faithfully executed.” In a long incisive op-ed in the New York Times, on July 2, 2024, leading constitutional law scholar Harvard Professor Lawrence Tribe called the ruling “OUTRAGEOUS.”

If asked, millions of Americans might be responding to my alarm with the words “Relax Ralph, it’s obvious that presidents have always been ‘above the law’ and that they do whatever they want and get away with it.” A few might even cite the brazen declaration in July 2019 by then-President Donald Trump: “Then I have Article II, where I have the right to do anything I want as president.” He did just that and is now a very successful fugitive from justice in twin federal criminal cases and a state criminal case – all following indictments – which have faltered due to a legal system built for delay after delay for rich defendants paying rich attorneys.

Trump while president even got away with defying over 125 congressional subpoenas including one by the Jan 6th House Select Committee. His colossal record of immunity is sui generis. His special assistant Peter Navarro defied one congressional subpoena and is serving several months in prison.

People, you are correct that the presidency has been practicing daily lawlessness against our Constitution, federal statutes, and international treaties the U.S. signed and often initiated, turning the White House into an ongoing crime scene – whether Democratic or Republican incumbents. (See, President Trump’s staggering record of uncharged criminal misconduct by Conor Shaw,

So, what’s the big deal? The highest court in the land has hijacked our constitution and noble ideals and entrenched presidential immunities beyond the power of Congress to change. That’s the big deal. Trump, who chose three of the sitting Supreme Court Justices, is delighting in disbelief over his good fortune.

The cunning, devious Supreme Court majority kept delaying its decision to preclude any Trump trial before the November 2024 presidential election. Last year, the Court turned down a petition by Special Counsel Jack Smith for an expedited decision by leapfrogging the court of appeals since all the lower courts had decided no immunity with no conflicting precedents. Then on February 28, 2024, the Supreme Court decided to take the Trump appeal, after the Court of Appeals weighed in, and waited until the last day of this session, July 1, 2024, to issue its opinion. It then remanded the case to the federal district court to divine like Joseph interpreting Pharoah’s dreams, whether the government could defeat Trump’s presumptively immune actions to void President Joe Biden’s election. If Trump loses, another round of immediate appeals will follow while trial proceedings are frozen until the Supreme Court makes a final decision a year or so down the road. Get the strategy?

By contrast, prior Supreme Courts decided the constitutional issues of Bush v. Gore in 48 hours, the Nixon Tapes case in two weeks and the Pentagon Papers case in four days. The Court knows how to gallop instead of walk if it wants to.

Additional wreckage by the Court in its last week before a long summer vacation included:

1. The six justices fortified a previous decision dramatically narrowing federal bribery laws by further restricting the crime to exclude a request for a legislator to do something and then belatedly giving him/her money or property after the request is honored. The court labelled the latter a “gratuity” and okay!!

2. The Court overturned the Chevron doctrine where the courts could defer to the expertise of federal regulatory agencies like the EPA and the FDA. The six justices said that the courts can take charge and decide these cases because the agencies were acting on Congress’s vague legislative authority. The courts don’t have anywhere near the budgets, staff and expertise necessary to interpret hyper-technical regulatory statutes. What the Supreme Court has done is to provide an open invitation for corporate lawyers to so delay agency actions as to diminish them with settlements that are little more than exhortations.

3. The six Justices prohibited the SEC’s administrative law judges from fining a defendant after due process in a statutory fraud case giving the latter a right to a jury trial if the SEC charges are analogous to common law fraud. This gives hordes of corporate lawyers the leverage to coerce sweetheart settlements with the SEC or have it overwhelmed with expensive, budget-draining trials.

4. Adding to their previous years of straitjacketing of the EPA’s life-preserving missions, the six Justices gutted the Clean Air Act’s “Good Neighbor Provision” such as actions prohibiting states from allowing pollution to stream into sister states.

The losers here are all the people who want clean air, water and soil, who want corrupt politicians and corporate crooks held accountable, and who, most definitely, do not want a president to be a King above the law, brandishing immense powers of illegal violence abroad and at home, secrecy, and destruction of the people’s right to freedom, justice, health, safety and economic well-being. Ordered by lifetime justices who have no robes.

Don’t you think impeachment and a constitutional amendment should be on the table?

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!