Opinion: Trump Aims To Weaken The Courts By Pardoning War Criminals

Anyone who thinks Donald Trump hasn’t changed America is not paying attention. Trump is consolidating power before our eyes.  Only the House of Representatives and the courts, for the most part, bear a resemblance to institutions that continue to fight for the American democracy we knew.

The daily press briefing became a propaganda session under Trump’s Press-Secretary, Sarah Sanders. Ethical standards are routinely violated by virtually everyone on Trump’s staff. Under William Barr, the Department of Justice became Donald Trump’s personal law firm.

Mitch McConnell’s Senate behaves more like Trump’s employees than an independent part of a co-equal branch of government. The House of Representatives is empowered with oversight under the Constitution. It’s a power that Trump is trying to wrestle away from the House.

The courts are being packed with Trump loyalists who don’t want to admit that Brown v. Topeka Board of Education is settled law. Even the Supreme Court is packed with two Trump loyalists chosen by the Federalist Society. They join the conservative coalition of Alito, Thomas and Roberts as the “swing vote”,

Yet, as legal analysts, like MSNBC’s Glenn Kirschner say, the courts are the guardrail between our democracy and Donald Trump’s tyranny.

“I felt like, you know what, the state of the judiciary is strong,” he said. “And once the Congress can get these matters before judges, judges will not endure or endorse a runaway administration or a criminal president. You know, they are really going to be governed by the rule of law regardless of whether they were appointed by Republican presidents or Democratic presidents.”

Trump’s policy fared badly in the courts over the past couple of years.  As of March, the Trump administration lost in 63 court cases.  It’s why he has packed the lower courts with 112 Trump loyalists. It’s why he attacks the character, integrity and, when the opportunity arises, the ethnic background of a judge who rules on the law instead of on Trump’s whims.

In the days before the Memorial Day weekend, there were several reports that Trump intended to pardon convicted and accused war criminals over the Memorial Day weekend.  Because Trump already pardoned a war criminal, this story was plausible.

Such pardons mock the very spirit of the day we pay tribute to people who died defending our freedoms and our democracy.

Trump may admire people who gun down civilian women and children in the street. He might even call them war heroes. My war heroes don’t commit war crimes – though they might be victims of them, like the late Senator John McCain.

The fact that Trump insults the memory of our war dead by pardoning war criminals on Memorial Day weekend is disconcerting in another way.

Trump made it clear on Friday that he would decide on pardons after trials are completed. Really, the pardons are a signal of Trump’s possible intent to nullify any and every verdict he doesn’t like.

Pardoning war criminals would definitely announce to the world that it is free to violate the rights of our soldiers in return. It’s telling rogue states they won’t face consequences for torturing American civilians. Of course, we already know that from the way Trump denied Kim Jong Un’s culpability for the torture and death of American student, Otto Warmbier.

All that is bad enough, but the pardons tend to demote courts from their rightful place as a co-equal branch in our constitutional order. This figures into Trump’s general aims of persecuting non-whites in general and most immigrants in particular.

We know Trump is comfortable with degrading and humiliating treatment when he fires the DHS Secretary because putting babies in cages and watching 6 asylum seeking children die in our custody wasn’t “tough enough.”

This is while media reports in horror and Democrats dig for the buried facts about the demeaning and abusive treatment intended to strike fear in all immigrants but especially refugees and asylum seekers.

Making themselves enemies of Trump’s anti-immigrant program, the courts push back on Trump’s Muslim ban, on his wall, on his effort to financial penalize “sanctuary cities” and on every other unconstitutional and immoral policy of the past two and a half years.

Trump is trying to condition us into accepting crimes against humanity when the victims are brown and arrive at the southern border. Part of it may involve discrediting courts who recognize that cruel and inhumane treatment of brown people is a crime regardless of their citizenship and regardless of their immigration status.

The framing of Trump’s possible pardon of convicted war criminals suggests someone is orchestrating a long game with the pardon power that slowly but surely conditions us into believing the presidency is the highest court in the land and the Judicial Branch is subservient.

Under this framing, the speculation about pardoning war criminals on Memorial Day weekend makes perfect sense.

Trump was never going to preemptively pardon the likes of Erik Prince’s henchman over the Memorial Day weekend. But putting it out there means people would subconsciously equate war criminals with the people who sacrificed their lives to defend our values, our freedoms, our laws and our democracy.

If or when there is a conviction by a legitimate court, Trump will whine about the injustice of convicting someone who shot a civilian woman dead on a public street in broad daylight. He’ll demonize the court and possibly the jurors, and if he can find a way to blame Obama, Hillary or Nancy Pelosi, he will.

It will be another in a series planted seeds intended to smear the courts as part of a conspiracy against Trump and his fellow fascists.