Since the early days of his presidency, Donald Trump has said, “I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” He has described himself as the country’s “chief law enforcement officer,” ignoring the fact that it is the Supreme Court, not him, who makes the ultimate decisions about matters of law under the Constitution. Nonetheless, Trump has never backed down, going so far as to say, “I have the absolute right to PARDON MYSELF.”
Trump has claimed that his base would not turn against him even if he were to shoot someone on 5th Avenue in New York City. Going even further, his lawyer William S. Consovoy, in an appeals court argument last year, claimed that Trump couldn’t be investigated for shooting someone on 5th Avenue while in office.
Last Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected that claim in a surprisingly tough opinion by the Republican-appointed Chief Justice John Roberts. His opinion was joined by the two men the president appointed to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Indeed, even the two Republican appointees, Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, who dissented from the majority opinion rejected the president’s claim of absolute immunity.
Even the United States solicitor general, in attempting to support Trump in the United States Supreme Court, could not support an argument for absolute immunity that the court had denied to former presidents including Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton during their administrations.
The fact that President Trump even made such an argument is a stunning acknowledgment of his disregard for precedent and his insistence that he’s above the law. In response to the decision, the president tweeted that the investigation of his finances and business operations by the Manhattan district attorney, and the decision by the court, was all part of a “political prosecution” that is “not fair to this Presidency or Administration.” The nation’s narcissist in chief went on to claim, “Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference.’ BUT NOT ME.”
But for all of Donald Trump’s extreme advocacy, ignorance of precedent and translating every decision made by anyone that disfavors him into a personal assault — or, as his press secretary claimed Thursday, “a political witch hunt against this president” — the fact remains that neither Congress nor the public is likely to see those records before Election Day. Donald Trump remains the only candidate of a major party in recent decades — decades — not to release his tax returns.
Am I the only one who remembers the way Geraldine Ferraro was attacked within days of her selection as vice president for not having released her tax returns, saying she would have to discuss it with her husband first. Ferraro was forced to sit for an endless press conference during which she not only disclosed her returns but was also interrogated as to every line.
Donald Trump has never offered a detail. Like so many things, he has gotten away with taking positions that are so far outside the mainstream that even his allies and supporters have a difficult time justifying them.
Maybe it wouldn’t matter if the economy were still humming along, if most Americans were telling pollsters that the country was on the right track, and that they approve of the president’s handling of the coronavirus. President Trump’s support has dropped to record-low levels, while coronavirus deaths have hit record highs. He has yet to acknowledge any responsibility for anything involved in the coronavirus, a stance so extreme that it appears to be costing Trump support even among white suburban voters who were responsible for his victory in 2016.
As for Joe Biden, whom Trump has yet to figure out how to attack, and who has none of the sharp edges and faces no hint of the sexism that so clearly contributed to Hillary Clinton’s defeat, the former vice president on Thursday reminded everyone of his tweet from last November. After noting that he had released 21 years of tax returns, Biden’s message was simple: “release your taxes or shut up.” There is no sign that the president intends to do either. But there is every sign that he may pay for that stance in November. After all, if he has nothing to hide, why is he going to such extremes to keep it hidden? July 15 is Tax Day. The rest of us will be paying. What about Trump?
To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.