Trump’s Mixed Results in the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s argument, made by his lawyers with a straight face, that he has “absolute immunity” not only from prosecution but even investigation. Although the rulings will have the effect of keeping his tax returns secret until at least after election Trump was furious about the assertion he’s not above the law. He “tweeted” that the Supreme Court was “Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!” and that he was a victim of “political prosecution.”
A few hours later Trump “tweeted” that he was gratified by a ruling the did not hand his tax returns over to a House investigative but allowed them to seek the documents in a lower court with the Supreme Court’s guidance that Trump has no special status. Trump also “tweeted” that he felt “protected” by another ruling that a New York state prosecutor is entitled to the tax returns, but only to present them to a grand jury, where proceedings are conducted outside public view and rarely leaked. Even so, Trump seems to feel he’s being picked on by being treated like everyone else.
Trump hasn’t said so publicly, but he’s probably furious that Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh joined the liberal justices in the seven-to-two decisions. Both are Trump appointees, and the president surely expected they would repay the favor with undying loyalty to him rather than the law. That’s what he gets for letting the Federalist Society vet his nominees, though.
Although his tax returns will probably remain under wraps until Election Day, it’s another reminder that there’s something in there that he doesn’t want anyone to see.

Et Tu, Gorsuch?

No matter what goes wrong during President Donald Trump’s time in office, his die-hard supporters will tell you that it’s all worth it for the judges he appoints. He put conservative originalists Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, and that alone is enough to satisfy the fans.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the case of Bostock v. Clayton County, however, has soured some of the faithful on Gorsuch. After hearing the case the Supreme Court concluded that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says lesbians, homosexual men and transgendered people cannot be fired because of their sexual activities or what sex they consider themselves to be, which is making many religious right types unhappy, and Gorsuch not only joined the court’s four liberal justices in the majority but also wrote the opinion.
Some of the religious conservatives who support the conspicuously irreligious president will admit they oppose the decision because they want to be able to fire any sexual deviants they might have inadvertently hired, and needlessly worry that churches won’t have the exceptions they’ve always enjoyed, but others couch their complaints in terms of judicial overreach. We don’t see any reason for anybody to fire anyone for their private sexual conduct or their opinions about their sex, but there is some merit to the argument about the court amending laws by judicial fiat.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes no mention whatsoever about homosexuality or transgenderism, which is not surprising given the time when it was passed. Back in ’64 gay rights weren’t a big issue, and nobody had even heard of transgenderism, and if the bill did include such language it would have been so controversial the bill wouldn’t have passed. A more up-to-date Congress could have added those protections to the law, but has declined to do so, so our strictly constitutionalist sensibilities are also offended by any court usurping the legislature.
In his writings and speeches and past rulings Gorsuch has long claimed to be a “textualist,” meaning that the believes courts should interpret a statute by it’s plain and not infer any intentions the lawmakers might have had, and certainly not assume what they might have thought after 56 years of social evolution, so his siding with the majority in this case is surprising. Our reading of the lengthy opinion doesn’t provide us with a convincing explanation for his change of mind.
Conservatives have long been disappointed with Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices, going all the way back to President Dwight Eisenhower’s choice of Chief Justice Earl Warren, who presided over a court that expanded civil rights and limited police powers, and continued with President George W. Bush’s choice of Chief Justice John Roberts, who infuriated conservatives by declining to find “Obamacare” unconstitutional. Gorsuch is just the latest in a long line of Republican appointees who have disappointed Republicans.
Should Gorsuch get back to his textualist roots, though, he might wind up disappointing Republicans even further. Trump has a number of legal cases involving everything from his immigration policies to his tax returns and alleged cases of sexual misbehavior winding their way through the court system, and a strict textualist might rule against him in several of those cases. There’s a nearly 100-year-old and long upheld law that lets Congress look at any American’s tax return, for instance, and the text does not include any exception for presidents, so it will be interesting to see how the Trump appointees rule in that case.
There are countless federal statutes that are very liberal, and the Constitution also has some very liberal language, and a sincerely originalist and textualist jurist would leave it to the legislative and executive branches to rectify that, even if the Trump era sort of conservatives would prefer that the courts bang a gavel and return America to 1964, or better yet 1954, before all that civil rights legislation and litigation. Most people don’t care so much about constitutional arguments and just want the courts to deliver their preferred policy, so our guess is that Republicans will once again be disappointed in their party’s Supreme Court picks, and Trump supporters will be disheartened.

— Bud Norman

The Rage on the Left and the Rage on the Right on Our Doubts Here in the Middle

Thursday was so full of infuriatingly unresolved news that we couldn’t decide what to write about, so we went to the reliably idiosyncratic to see what it considered the top story of the day. The very top of the home page featured a picture of comedian Amy Schumer raising a defiant feminist fist above the headline “Rage of the Left.”
Schumer has frequently cracked us up, even if that Netflix special of hers struck as both unfunny and downright distasteful, and we’re always fascinated by how annoyingly raging the left can be, so we “clicked” onto the “link.” It turned out to be an Associated Press story about the many women publicly objecting to the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, which we’re quite sure isn’t “fake news,” and although Schumer is mentioned in passing after several paragraphs it seemed a bit of “click bait.”.
Our long and desultory experience of both male and female human beings tells us that what she said is usually if not always more reliable than what he said, and with no particular political affiliation these days that’s how we’re assessing the news these days.
Presidential namesake Donald Trump Jr. has both sons and daughters, which we admit is more than we brag about, and he’s worried that his sons face a greater chance of being falsely accused of being charged by a woman with sexual misbehavior than his daughters do of suffering the sexual misbehavior of men. Given the numerous accusations against his boastfully pussy-grabbing father we can well understand the worry, but given his family history we’d also advise him to keep a watchful eye on his daughters. There are no doubt some false accusations against men that the right has every reason reason to be furious about, even if the right isn’t all furious about the frequent occasions when men on the left are accused, and we can well understand the rage. On the other hand, too many males do undeniably sexual misbehave on frequent occasions, and we can’t blame the suddenly fuddy-duddy left for being outraged about that.
We’ll leave it to the Senate and the movie studios and the rest of the broader popular culture to sort it all out, and in the meantime we’ll continue to try our best to comport ourselves as gentlemen.

— Bud Norman