President Elect Donald Trump’s only tweet in the last seven hours (as of about 3pm EST, Jan 19th), is the relatively inoffensive, “Getting ready to leave for Washington, D.C. The journey begins and I will be working and fighting very hard to make it a great journey for..the American people. I have no doubt that we will, together, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
This restraint is remarkable, given what the citizenry has grown to expect. The legal issues raised by Donald Trump and his incoming administration are almost too many to enumerate, so we can be glad at least for this slight pause in his output.
Let’s take stock briefly.
We can consider first constituencies he has aggressed, aggrieved, or thrown into various forms of panic or disarray. This includes:
- climate activists and environmental defenders,
- the diverse coalition of anti-racist organizations — from relative new organizations like Black Lives Matter and Standing Up for Racial Justice, to long-standing ones such as the NAACP,
- the Muslim community in the US
- the Mexican and broader Hispanic community in the US
- people with insurance dependent on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, or Medicare,
- individuals who rely on Social Security,
- supporters of public schools and school teachers,
- defenders of refugees and of international human rights law,
- defenders of NATO,
- those who think China should not be heedlessly angered,
- advocates of the TPP and other grand international trade treaties,
- large segments of the United States Intelligence community, most especially the CIA
- mainstream media/ journalists
If I have left out any major interest group, please let me know. I will add it to this list.
Each of these challenged constituencies corresponds to certain law(s) and/or treaties that are challenged by Trump’s incoming administration.
Here again, the sweep is so enormous that it is almost difficult just to grasp the scope. Here is a list of laws and treaties Trump’s inauguration and administration bring into play. This resembles an all-out assault on the status quo and seems heavily indebted to what is called Bannon’s predominant political theory: destroy, destroy, destroy.
Prior to listing legal challenges raised vis-a-vis specific constituencies, we need to remark that the process of Trump attaining power has been beset by issues of dubious legality (voter suppression, the FBI Chief Comey illegal interference just prior to the election, and the currently under-investigation relationship between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Donald Trump personally and his campaign more generally). Those three dimensions of illegality cast a pall on the in-coming administration, raising fundamental doubts about its legitimacy. Trump’s extensive national and international business investments arguably put him into conflict with the emoluments clause in the Constitution.
The method by which the new administration, led on by the Republican-controlled Congress (Mitch McConnell in the Senate, Paul Ryan in the House), is trying to rush the confirmation process regarding Trump’s appointees is unethical. Reince Priebus challenged the head of the Congressional Ethics Office. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has summoned Walter Shaub Jr., the director of the Office of Government Ethics. Shaub criticized Trump’s failure to reconcile the apparent conflicts of interest caused by his business holdings, and criticized the rushed confirmation process in which the ethics forms of appointees have not been properly filled out, filed, and vetted. This aborted vetting process for conflicts of interest seems to ensure scandals for the in-coming administration, all the more so because many of the appointees have political ties and business ties that overlap and stand to profit from the nominee(s) gaining office.
So: just to review: In-coming President Donald Trump is already threatening
- scandal because of business conflicts of interest and from private benefits from foreign states or agents of foreign states (emoluments clause)
- upending civil rights and basic freedoms, including equal protection under the law, religious freedom, freedom of the press
- ending the One China policy
- weakening NATO
- extant and prospective international trade agreements
- sex discrimination and legitimizing sexual assault
- dismantling many of the agencies under the Administrative Procedures Act, most especially the EPA
- dismantling public schools
- foreign policy not dedicated even in word to the rule of law (see Tillerson confirmation hearing)
- mass deportations
- refusal to execute our treaty obligation to receive refugees
I will be writing again as the events of the 20th and 21st unfold. This post is just an introduction. I will focus future posts on more specific subjects.