Wed, Apr

The Supreme Court Defines Itself Down


GELFAND’S WORLD - This won't take long. The Supreme Court has just made obvious that it serves the interests of the Trump campaign. In taking up the frivolous argument that Trump (as president) is allowed to commit any and every crime -- and, in reality, allowing Trump to put off his criminal trials while the Supreme Court decides, the Court is very close to putting the last nail in its own coffin. But in doing its best to serve the interests of the Trump campaign, it has paradoxically given the anti-Trump side a powerful argument. 

Let's consider. Donald Trump's strategy has always been to use the law to stall. In civil matters, he used his ability to file frivolous nonsense to intimidate the small businesses he was cheating. It became a habit. Lately, he has been applying this strategy to his criminal indictments. The idea is to drag the criminal stuff out long enough that the election can occur first. Then, as president, Trump can use the powers available to him to minimize his own liabilities and to prosecute his enemies. 

It is a long shot, because he would have to win the election. Not wonderful odds, but a possibility nonetheless. 

The Supreme Court has now given Trump what he asked for. They have agreed to hear the frivolous argument that a sitting president can break any law with impunity -- an argument that the federal appeals court demolished -- and they not only accepted it, they added two months to the scheduling. Trump's attorneys won't face the Supreme Court until the end of April. Then the right-wing majority on the court can delay announcing its decision until even later. 

Notice that the Supreme Court is perfectly capable of taking up a pressing question in a timely matter. They managed to hear, consider, and decide on Bush v Gore in 4 days flat: On December 8, 2000, the Florida Supreme Court ruled on the proposed recount of the presidential election. On December 9, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider the question. On December 12, 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of George W. Bush. 

That's 4 days from the time the Court accepted the case to the time when the decision was announced. Make it 5 days if you take it from the day of the Florida court's decision. 

This Court could have (and should have) dealt with the latest Trump appeal simply by refusing to hear it. That would have enshrined the appellate ruling, and the criminal trials would have been allowed to continue. A legitimate group of justices would have done so. 

The question is whether this action will work to Trump's advantage. In one way it already has, because he won't have to sit in a D.C. court for his criminal trial just yet. 

But there are two reasons that this latest legal outrage could boomerang against him. 

The first is that the Supreme Court action clears the schedule for the New York State criminal trial. Now, nobody can argue that the state trial should be postponed because of competing federal activities. That trial is scheduled to start in March. Once again, the public's gaze will be focused on a judge telling Trump to be quiet while his attorneys make nonsensical arguments. 

And amusingly, the nightly news of April 22 will feast simultaneously on the state criminal trial and the Supreme Court argument about a different criminal trial. That will be one for the history books, and you can be sure that the news stations will play up that part of the story. 

(Well, all but one of them, anyway. I wonder if Fox News will cover the New York state trial at all.) 

But there is one other predictable result of the latest Supreme Court action, above and beyond the Court's demolishing of its own reputation. In winning a stay of his criminal trial, Trump has defined himself as a rich guy who can take advantage of the system in a way that is not available to us ordinary folks. It is a reminder of how the criminal justice system works in favor of the rich and against the middle class. And as Trump crows about his win, as he inevitably will, it will rub this ugly reality in all of our faces. 

If they know what they are doing, the Democrats will be making this point to every American who ever got a traffic ticket. There is one law for the poor and middle class, and a different law for the rich. The ads write themselves. Imagine side-by-side photos of Trump and OJ. You can write your own caption. 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)