Matthew T. Mangino
December 7, 2017
Following a recent terrorist attack in Manhattan that killed eight and injured 12 President Donald Trump attacked the criminal justice system. He suggested that the criminal justice system was partially at fault for terrorist acts.
“We need quick justice, and we need strong justice -- much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke, and it’s a laughingstock,” said Trump.
Last weekend President Trump tweeted, “After years of [F.B.I. Director] Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History! . . .”
Not to mention the president’s recent attacks against Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators as “very bad and conflicted people” and his characterization of the Russia probe as a “witch hunt.”
Those comments from the president of the United States should alarm anyone who believes in the rule of law.
Bob Bauer, White House Counsel to President Obama, wrote recently on LawFare, “the president is successfully bringing the legal process into the discredited conspiratorial ranks of the ‘deep state.’ He is specifically stirring up suspicion of Robert Mueller, but his broadsides have a far wider focus. He has upbraided the whole system--DOJ, the FBI and the courts.”
The foundation of American democracy rests on the rule of law. Freedom endures with the notion that all men and women are on equal footing before the courts, and that our government of checks and balances protects us from corrupt institutions.
The faith that we invest in our leaders is always subject to legitimate scrutiny. However, baseless attacks on our institutions shake our faith in democracy.
In 2016, Gallup released a poll that showed only 23 percent of Americans have either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the criminal justice system. Such lack of confidence is unfortunate and concerning. The poll predates the current attacks on justice-related institutions.
Jason Brennan a professor at Georgetown University wrote in Time, ”[M]ost voters have no incentive to be well-informed about politics, or to correct their misinformed opinions. They have no incentive to think rationally about politics or to process information in a reasonable way. They have every incentive to indulge their biases and prejudices.”
The recipe of demagogic attacks on political institutions, and failure of voters to correct misinformation, is dangerous. Don’t take it from me. This week, former President Barack Obama warned against staying complacent in the face of rising nativism--citing the rise of Hitler as an example of what can happen if democracy is not defended--reports Crain’s Chicago Business.
“We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly,” Obama told an audience at the Economic Club of Chicago. “That’s what happened in Germany in the 1930s, which despite the democracy of the Weimar Republic and centuries of high-level cultural and scientific achievements, Adolf Hitler rose to dominate.”
Obama continued, “Sixty million people died...So, you’ve got to pay attention. And vote.”
Whether it was attacking U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel for his ethnicity or the “so-called judges’ that overruled his travel ban or his comments after the sanctuary cities decision, “This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge,” President Trump has displayed little respect for the rule of law.
In 1947, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote, “There can be no free society without law administered through an independent judiciary. If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny.”
Judges, prosecutors and investigators should be free from pressure imposed by a political party, a powerful person, a private interest, or popular opinion.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewTMangino.
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