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Politics: Supreme Court's Trump Immunity Ruling Is What The Body

POLITICS: Supreme Court’s Trump immunity ruling is what the body was meant for — unpopular but constitutionally correct

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Within minutes of the Supreme Court’s decision on presidential immunity, liberal politicians and pundits seemed to move from hyperbole to hyperventilation. When not breathing into paper bags, critics predicted, again, the end of the republic.

CNN’s Van Jones declared that it was “almost a license to thug, in a way.” 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) declared: “My stomach turns with fear and anger that our democracy can be so endangered by an out-of-control court” and denounced six justices as “extreme and nakedly partisan hacks — politicians in robes.”

Blumenthal has previously shown greater intestinal fortitude, as when he threatened the justices that they would either rule as Democrats demanded or face “seismic” changes to their court.

Jones warned the justices that “politically it’s bad” for them to rule this way. 

The comment captures the misguided analysis of many media outlets. The Supreme Court was designed to be unpopular; to take stands that are politically unpopular but constitutionally correct. 

Court independence

Indeed, the Democrats have become the very threat that the court was meant to resist.

Recently, senators demanded that Chief Justice John Roberts appear to answer to them for his own decisions. (Roberts wisely declined.)

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer previously declared in front of the Supreme Court, “I want to tell you, [Neil] Gorsuch, I want to tell you, [Brett] Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price.”

Now Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) announced that she will seek the impeachment of all six of the conservative justices. She was immediately joined by other Democratic members.

Notably, scholars have long disagreed where to draw the line on presidential immunity. The court adopted a middle approach that rejected extreme arguments on both sides. 

Yet, because Ocasio-Cortez disagrees with their decision, she has declared that this “is an assault on American democracy. It is up to Congress to defend our nation from this authoritarian capture.”

Previously, Ocasio-Cortez admitted that she does not understand why we even have a Supreme Court. She asked “How much does the current structure benefit us? And I don’t think it does.”

Other members, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have called for packing the Court with additional members to immediately secure a liberal majority to rule as she desires.

For these pundits and politicians, justice is merely an extension of politics and subject to the whims of the majority. 

These are same voices who chastised Judge Aileen Cannon for “slowwalking” her decisions by holding hearings on constitutional questions. They pointed to Judge Tanya Chutkan, who supported the efforts of special counsel Jack Smith to try Trump before the election, turning her court into a rocket docket.

Chutkan quickly set aside this challenge, as well as other objections from Trump.  

Indeed, at the oral argument, Chief Justice Roberts marveled at the conclusory analysis by Patricia Ann Millett in upholding Chutkan. He referred to the opinion celebrated by the left as little more than declaring “a former president can be prosecuted because he’s being prosecuted.” Chutkan and the DC Circuit were fast but ultimately wrong. Indeed, the Supreme Court noted that the judge created little record for the basis of her decisions. 

In a perverted sense, Democrats are giving the public a powerful lesson in constitutional law. As Alexander Hamilton stated in The Federalist No. 78, judicial independence “is the best expedient which can be devised in any government to secure a steady, upright and impartial administration of the laws.”

This is the moment that the Framers envisioned in creating the Court under Article III of the Constitution. It would be our bulwark even when politicians lose faith in our Constitution and seek to dictate justice for those who they dislike.

An ‘Age of Rage’

In my new book, “The Indispensable Right: Free Speech in an Age of Rage.” I discuss other such moments in our history. This is not our first age of rage. During periods of intense fear or anger, people often turn on free speech or other rights as inconvenient or outdated.

We have heard the same voices of the faithless today. MSNBC commentator Elie Mystal has called the Constitution “trash” and argued that we should simply just dump it. Law professors Ryan D. Doerfler of Harvard and Samuel Moyn of Yale called for the Constitution to be “radically altered” to “reclaim America from constitutionalism.”

None of these threats or bloviating will work. The court is designed to stand against everyone and everything except for the Constitution. It has been forged for his moment.

Jonathan Turley is the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro professor of public interest law at the George Washington University School of Law.

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