Whose law? Whose order?

There’s a knee to the neck for protesters and others Trump dislikes, and not even a slap on the wrist for him

Published June 10, 2020 6:30AM (EDT)

Donald Trump | Protestors are tear gassed as the police disperse them near the White House on June 1, 2020 as demonstrations against George Floyd's death continue. (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump | Protestors are tear gassed as the police disperse them near the White House on June 1, 2020 as demonstrations against George Floyd's death continue. (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

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Not since Richard M. Nixon have we heard such a loud presidential bullhorn calling for Law & Order.

Perhaps stuck with the continuing coronavirus pandemic, attempts at economic recovery and the sudden discovery that millions care about racism when he does not, Donald Trump clearly is betting his re-election on bringing "dominating" force to end looting – and, indeed, protests that he does not like.

The irony of calling for more law enforcement muscle, even the deployment of active U.S. military troops, against protesters of police brutality seems to have missed Trump's tin ear.

In a hundred ways, he now has re-doubled that "We need law and order."

Other than the obvious issues here from questionable authority and the practical issues of the ineffectiveness of unleashing the forces of military might against American citizens, there still remains that one ornery little problem of Hypocrisy — always my personal favorite among government no-nos.

Trump only obeys the law himself when he feels like it, when it helps him politically when it helps him "win" the moment. The rest of the time, he spends his waking hours destroying the system, laws and all, and evading accountability, oversight, or anything resembling a rule.

Plus, he won't own up to doing so.

So, whether in beefs with Congress over obeying legal subpoenas or in coloring within the lines with allies, ruining the environment, ripping immigrant families apart, eliminating consent decrees for police departments over brutality, over blackmailing state governors and the Ukrainian government, Trump writes his own Law & Order.

Leading by example

"This administration, after all, must be among the most lawless and disorderly in U.S. history," wrote columnist Catherine Rampell in the Washington Post, who used her column to list a number of law-breaking incidents over Trump's presidency. Add in the history of Trump Organization and pre-White House Trump and you have a career of serious bending and breaking of laws.

After all, Trump remains an unindicted conspirator of campaign finance laws involving payoffs to Stormy Daniels and other women, many of whom also charge he criminally assaulted them. His many personal lawsuits and sudden bankruptcy filings belied a personal financial history filled with legally risky schemes to defraud workers, contractors and banks. New York officials are now only beginning to look into his financial records to determine if he broke fraud and lending laws and tax filing laws.

Dozens of times, senior Trump officials have violated the Hatch Act prohibiting campaign or partisan pollical actions from government offices and positions. Trump has publicly granted underlings absolution for such violations. Administration officials have routinely filed inaccurate financial disclosures, failing to divulge financial entanglements that present serious conflicts of interest. Aides have eluded the Presidential Records Act by conducting official business through unpreserved private emails — a transgression that Republicans once seemed to believe merited locking up opponent Hillary Clinton. Trump himself has illegally ripped up records meant to be preserved.

Rule changes in administrative law to reward political allies have had to be challenged, overwhelmingly successfully, in court.  The administration has broken the law to take taxpayer money from accounts voted on in Congress to spend them on projects that Congress has barred, including the border wall.

Multiple cabinet secretaries improperly used private jets or military aircraft when they were supposed to fly commercial, and Trump himself ran up exorbitant bills on overseas stays at his own hotels. The Secret Service has been forced to spend huge sums to be at Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties — all without required oversight.

The Government Accountability Office said he illegally refused to spend congressionally mandated appropriations on military aid to Ukraine. And the administration suffered the indignity of an impeachment trial over excesses in the Russia investigation, the Ukraine blackmail scheme and refusals to answer legal congressional subpoenas.

Which laws, which order?

Instead, the Trump administration has argued repeatedly to the courts that the Oval Office is immune not only from prosecution but from any question, subpoena or rule that it does not like. After all, Trump said he could successfully shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight and get away with it.

Some Law. Some Order.

This is the president that gets rid of inspectors general for asking questions, fires White House personnel who report wrongdoing, who pardons friends and associates who get convicted of actual crimes. This is the president who doesn't recognize questions about ethics any more than he recognizes the people who ask the questions as doing their job.

We're not just talking about illegal acts in the government either. As Rampell notes, this administration is "on track to set yet another record this year for fewest criminal prosecutions for both white-collar crimes (think: various kinds of fraud) and government regulatory crimes (money laundering, health and safety violations, nuclear waste violations), according to data from Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse."

Trump sees reopening the economy as a chance to let all employers avoid liabilities for products or processes in making goods. He has yet to see an environmental rule that he likes. He sees no role for oversight of industry.

Trump believes in Law & Order if it is his own law and his own order.

By Terry H. Schwadron

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