Commentary, News, Trump Administration

No surprise: Trump picks right-winger for stolen Supreme Court nomination; Progressives must fight back

Image of Gorsuch with words: Today, Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, an extremist, to the Supreme CourtAs expected, President Donald Trump has selected conservative federal judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court that was created by the death of Antonin Scalia and the absurd and outrageous blockade of President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, by the Senate throughout almost all of 2016.

As noted below and in this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing, there are myriad reasons to be gravely concerned about this nomination — not the least of which is Trump himself and the utter disregard for (and ignorance of) the Constitution that he has demonstrated throughout his public life and first days in office. This is from the Weekly Briefing:

“It is, in other words, a make or break moment that goes right to the heart of the future of the republic and quite likely the single most important episode in the fight against Trumpism in 2017.

This is not about the nominee, whoever it turns out to be (though, it seems worth noting that any person who would accept a Trump nomination is supremely suspect). It is, rather about Trump and his questionable presidency and whether the American people and their elected representatives will force this immoral and dishonest man to play by the established rules of our democracy.”

But even if one sets aside Trump’s serial dishonesty, recklessness and even the possible illegitimacy of his presidency, Gorsuch’s nomination is a dangerous development for several other reasons related only to the nominee himself and is worth fighting. The most notable and important is that he is a committed right-wing ideologue and an extremist disciple of Antonin Scalia who takes a cramped and backward-looking view of the Constitution.

In such a time of national division — a time in which a sizable majority of Americans voted against Trump for president out of opposition to his ideology — it is simply wrong and unacceptable that Trump would do anything other than select a moderate with bipartisan appeal for this vital position.

And though he is full of polish and soft edges in public, Gorsuch is a hard-line advocate for the far right on any number of critical constitutional issues — from reproductive freedom to the right of the people to control giant corporations and corporate greed to environmental protection to LGBT rights. None of this is any particular wonder given that Gorsuch was essentially groomed and handpicked for the job by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, two right-wing organizations funded by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch.

As the always insightful Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress writes:

“There will no doubt be much celebration at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and at Koch Industries if Gorsuch is confirmed. Women, workers, voters, and the Earth itself will have less to celebrate.”

The bottom line: Let’s hope fervently that Americans continue the uprising of recent days and: a) tell Trump loudly and clearly “no way, no how” on his extremist nominee for a stolen seat and b) send him back to the drawing board to produce a dramatically different and acceptable nominee.

Commentary, Trump Administration

What you need to know about rumored Trump Supreme Court pick

Neil Gorsuch

Neil Gorsuch

There are unconfirmed reports this afternoon that Donald Trump will nominate federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court tonight at 8:00 p.m. As was argued in this morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing, there are many good reasons why senators ought to reject any nominee at this point from our lawless and dishonest president (many of which ought also to be reason enough for any self-respecting judge to decline any connection to Trump).

Assuming, however, that Gorsuch accepts the nomination that Republicans hope to steal from President Obama, here are some basic things you should know about him, courtesy of Elliot Mincberg of People for the American Way:

“Although Gorsuch’s record prior to becoming a judge was not nearly as problematic as [William] Pryor’s, his record as a judge and a lawyer make clear his extreme views. As a judge, he has consistently ruled against workers and in favor of big corporations. For example, he argued in dissent that the court should overturn a Department of Labor fine against a company whose failure to train a worker caused his death, and wrote an opinion holding that federal law did not even protect the in-house counsel of a state fire marshal from sex discrimination. He has harmed women’s reproductive rights through joining opinions that both for-profit companies and non-profits can refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to women under the ACA. He also argued in dissent that the Governor of Utah should be able to defund Planned Parenthood there as a result of false videos purporting to show other Planned Parenthood affiliates negotiating the sale of fetal tissue. As an advocate, he has tried to restrict or eliminate one of the most effective legal tools against corporate securities fraud, class actions against corporations. And he has gone even further to the right than Justice Scalia in arguing for the elimination of the so-called Chevron doctrine, under which courts defer to administrative agency interpretations of ambiguous statutes, which has been extremely important on environmental, job safety, and other issues.”

And this is from Ian Millhiser of the Center or American Progress:

“Like many names on Trump’s list, Judge Neil Gorsuch has strong social conservative credentials. He authored a book arguing against legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia, and he sided with religious employers seeking to limit their employees’ rights to birth control coverage in the lower court decision in Hobby Lobby.

Gorsuch also emerged as one of the judiciary’s leading spokespeople for an effort to hobble the Obama administration’s ability to promulgate progressive labor and environmental regulations. In the waning years of Obama’s presidency, Federalist Society events grew increasingly fixated on limiting federal agencies’ authority to take regulatory action of any kind. Often, they focused their ire on the Supreme Court’s venerable Chevron doctrine, which holds that courts should generally defer to agencies when the law authorizing a regulation is ambiguous, and typically should only strike down such regulation if the law clearly does not permit the agency’s action to move forward.

Gorsuch may be the judiciary’s most vocal proponent of the Federalist Society’s crusade. In a 2016 opinion, he claimed that Chevron is “more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design.”

The practical impact of a court decision overruling Chevron would be a significant shift in power from a branch of government that is elected, the executive, to a branch that is not, the judiciary. Currently, when the law is uncertain, courts defer to executive agencies. Under Gorsuch’s preferred rule, courts would instead decide for themselves which regulations will stand and which will go?—?and they will do so without much statutory guidance since Chevron is only an issue when the law is unclear.

In such a world, it would matter even more which party controls the Supreme Court. Rather than deferring to rules pushed by a Democratic administration, a Republican Court would be free to strike these rules down. Meanwhile, the same Court would be free to uphold every single regulation pushed by a republican administration.”

Stay tuned, we will have full coverage tonight and tomorrow.

Commentary, Trump Administration

Tillis and Burr must stand up to Trump or take responsibility for his outrages

Richard Burr

Richard Burr

Thom Tillis

Thom Tillis

The point at which supposedly responsible conservative American leaders must begin to disavow and push back against President Donald Trump (or, at least, stop pretending that they are anything other than accomplices to his outrageous assaults on basic American values) is coming soon.

A new editorial in the Charlotte Observer does an excellent job in making this important point — especially with respect North Carolina’s U.S. Senators, Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. Here’s the Observer:

“On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily halting U.S. admission of all refugees and pausing the entry of visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Trump also promised that Christians would get priority in admissions.

That is, for all practical purposes, a ban based on religion. It’s a dangerous and perhaps illegal policy, and it most certainly is not what this country stands for.

How did Tillis respond? With a sterile statement that tiptoed around the danger at hand. Tillis applauded the ‘tightening’ of refugee screening, but noted ‘confusion’ surrounding the order. ‘Implementation,’ he said, should be ‘refined to provide more clarity.’

That was better, at least, than our state’s other Republican U.S. senator, Richard Burr, who was either too cautious or too cowed to tell his constituents what he thought of Trump’s order.”

Commentary, Trump Administration

Editorials, GOP politicians, and even most popular NASCAR driver slam Trump on immigration

Donald Trump’s reckless, discriminatory, illegal and unconstitutional immigration orders need to be resisted by all patriotic Americans. Happily folks of all stripes began to step up to the plate over the weekend as scores of protests broke out across the country. Even NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. — the most popular figure in a sport that worked to elect Trump — spoke out to his 1.9 million followers on Twitter. This is from an article in the Charlotte Observer:

“Earnhardt tweeted this his own ancestors left Europe centuries ago to escape religious persecution.

In a tweet to Twitter user @GelarBudidarma, who identifies himself as a Muslim “mostly from” Bandung, Indonesia, Earnhardt wrote: ‘my fam immigrated from Germany in 1700s escaping religious persecution. America is created by immigrants.’”

Meanwhile, editorial pages across the country slammed Trump. The New York Times put it this way:

“That the order, breathtaking in scope and inflammatory in tone, was issued on Holocaust Remembrance Day spoke of the president’s callousness and indifference to history, to America’s deepest lessons about its own values.

The order lacks any logic. It invokes the attacks of Sept. 11 as a rationale, while exempting the countries of origin of all the hijackers who carried out that plot and also, perhaps not coincidentally, several countries where the Trump family does business. The document does not explicitly mention any religion, yet it sets a blatantly unconstitutional standard by excluding Muslims while giving government officials the discretion to admit people of other faiths.

The order’s language makes clear that the xenophobia and Islamophobia that permeated Mr. Trump’s campaign are to stain his presidency as well. Un-American as they are, they are now American policy.”

Finally, some Republican politicians have begun to send modest signals of opposition. As an editorial in the Greensboro News & Record noted over the weekend, North Carolina’s junior senator, Thom Tillis, has begun to stand up — at least on his knees — to Trump.

Unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot more than tweets, editorials and modest disagreements to stop the Discriminator-in-chief. People like Tillis, in particular — the people who knew better and helped elect Trump anyway — are going to have to muster the courage and patriotism to break with Trump, vote against him and help bring him down. Let’s hope Tillis and his buddies soon acknowledge the hard truth expressed in this morning’s Capitol Broadcasting Company editorial on WRAL.com:

“It is not OK to have a president who barely has a casual relationship with the truth.”

Commentary, Trump Administration

Governor Cooper, advocates: Trump’s immigration order endangers troops, embraces fear and bigotry

Governor Roy Cooper added his name to the growing list of leaders and organizations across the nation who are standing in solidarity against the Trump administration’s cruel, reckless, illegal, and unconstitutional immigration orders. Here’s Cooper:

“The executive order issued by the President will make our homeland and our troops serving overseas less safe. Our vetting process has to be tough and thorough, but we should not impose a religious test to enter the country. It’s especially troubling that individuals who risked their lives to protect our troops and served alongside them are now being turned away. We can secure the safety of our country without separating families, hurting our businesses, and turning away good people who need our help.”

Meanwhile, in case you missed it on Friday, the North Carolina Justice Center issued  a statement that expresses the views of many caring and thinking people across the country:

“Today’s Executive Order by President Trump continues a string of initiatives ostensibly designed to create a safer nation, but which, in reality, do no such thing. Instead, they alienate us from the rest of the world, instill fear in our friends, and turn away vulnerable children and families seeking safety. A nation whose iconic symbol welcomes to our shores those who are suffering persecution and despair now substitutes a wall of isolation in its stead.

President Trump’s order to ban entry by people from Muslim-majority nations, temporarily suspend the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, and indefinitely ban Syrian refugees from entering the country is nothing less than inhumane. The orders would not only impact refugees, but could also affect individuals from the targeted nations returning home from travel abroad. Rather than playing a leading role in a global humanitarian response, these actions – whether it is for a matter of days, months, or potentially years – send a powerful, damaging, and fearful message to the rest of the world.

Protecting our nation from terrorist attacks is indeed a top priority for us all. However, this goal is not served by baseless, fear-driven actions targeting an entire religion or region of the world. From turning away Jewish refugees fleeing Europe during World War II, to more recently rejecting Haitian immigrants escaping calamitous conditions in their home country, we have, at times, failed to live up to our principles and we have always come to regret it. Today, we forget lessons learned and repeat the same mistakes of the past – to the harm of many innocent children and families and, as important, our nation’s long-term security and international reputation.

The North Carolina Justice Center is proud to stand with Muslim and refugee communities in our state in the fight against Islamophobia and for workable and humane policies that honor the best of our nation’s values and, as such, enhance our security. We mourn this sad moment in our history as our country turns its back on human suffering and embraces policies driven by fear and bigotry.”