While much of the nation is fixated on Trump’s alarming statements on Twitter and outraged by his many personal transgressions, he has quietly gone about reshaping the federal court system for a generation or more.
When Trump entered office, there were nearly twice as many judicial openings as when Obama entered office. Indeed, the 108 vacancies at the beginning of Trump’s term (many kept vacant by the obstruction of Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell) represented about one in eight lifetime appointments. With a compliant Senate, Trump almost immediately filled the Supreme Court seat that had been kept open for nearly a year by McConnell. In his first 200 days, he also nominated 43 other federal judges, 7 of which were quickly confirmed. Most, if not all of these nominees were proposed by the very conservative Federalist Society. And all met the approval of “Christian” evangelicals who not only hope to overturn Roe v Wade. They are dead set on turning the US into a theocracy with the help of their “Chosen One.”
According to Wikipedia, as of August 14, 2019, the US Senate has confirmed 146 Article III judges nominated by President Trump, including two Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, 43 judges for the US Court of Appeals, 99 judges for US District Courts, and two judges for US Court of International Trade. A priority has been placed on relatively young nominees who can serve for decades.
Additionally, Trump’s two US Attorneys General have reshaped and politicized law enforcement as never before.
His first Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, dropped recommendations from the previous administration dealing with the findings of abuse by law enforcement, the courts and the city government of Ferguson, Missouri. He dropped investigations into white supremacy groups and other domestic terrorists. He rescinded DOJ guidance for schools which was designed to protect transgender students in bathrooms and locker rooms. And, as a southern “Christian” theocrat, he sided with a cake shop owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
Sessions undermined a major voting rights case in Texas by deciding that his civil rights unit would no longer investigate patterns of excessive force and racial profiling by local law enforcement. He threatened to withhold US grants from cities that designated themselves as sanctuaries for immigrants. He decided that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was “an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch” and could not be defended in a court challenge by Texas and other states. More disturbing, under his “zero-tolerance” policy, Sessions ordered the separation of children from parents seeking asylum and crossing the United States’ southern border. Sessions proudly proclaimed, “If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple.”
Sessions also revoked an Obama-era policy that gave federal prosecutors discretion in making decisions about charges in drug cases. And he reversed another Obama-era policy by announcing that the Justice Department would continue to use private prisons.
By almost any measure, Trump’s second Attorney General is even worse. William Barr was nominated by Trump based on his opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted. He quickly rewarded his new boss by misleading the public about the Mueller Report, falsely announcing that there was no collusion and no obstruction (a conclusion disputed by more than 1,000 former US attorneys and prosecutors). Taking it a step further, Barr even stoked conspiracy theories by announcing his intent to investigate FBI agents, CIA agents and others over the origins of the Mueller investigation, unabashedly stating, “I think spying did occur.” He chose not to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, potentially leaving millions of Americans vulnerable to a predatory insurance industry. And, more recently, Barr tried to block Mueller from testifying before Congress, ultimately limiting his testimony to the redacted report.
Perhaps the greatest threat posed by Barr is his belief that, contrary to the Constitution’s First Amendment, there should be no separation of church and state. Moreover, he has stated that he will oppose any attempt by the legislative branch to pass secular laws. He has also steadfastly refused to respond to lawful requests and subpoenas from Congress – the branch of government that the Founding Fathers considered most important as evidenced by it establishment in Article 1, Section 1 of the Constitution.
It’s startling to think that the man charged with defending our Constitution either hasn’t read it. Or doesn’t believe in it.