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Donald Trump’s latest and most dangerous assault on the rule of law

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The “rule of law” distinguishes democracies from dictatorships. It’s based on three fundamental principles. Trump is violating every one of them.

The first is that no person is above the law, not even a president. Which means a president cannot stop an investigation into his alleged illegal acts.

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Yet in recent weeks Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who at least had possessed enough integrity to recuse himself from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s possible collusion with Russia in the 2016 election. Trump replaced Sessions with an inexperienced loyalist hack, Matthew G. Whitaker, whose only distinction to date has been loud and public condemnation of that investigation. As a conservative legal commentator on CNN, Whitaker even suggested that a clever attorney general could secretly starve the investigation of funds.

There’s no question why Trump appointed Whitaker. When asked by the Daily Caller, Trump made it clear: “As far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had…. It’s an illegal investigation.”

The second principle of the rule of law is that a president cannot prosecute political opponents or critics. Decisions about whom to prosecute for alleged criminal wrongdoing must be made by prosecutors who are independent of politics.

Yet Trump has repeatedly pushed the Justice Department to bring charges against Hillary Clinton, his 2016 rival, for using a private email server when she was Secretary of State, in alleged violation of the Presidential Records Act.

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During his campaign, Trump led crowds in chanting “lock her up,” called Clinton “crooked Hillary,” and threatened to prosecute her if he was elected president.

After taking office, according to the New York Times, Trump told White House counsel Donald McGahn he wanted the Justice Department to prosecute Clinton. McGahn responded that Trump didn’t have the authority to do so, and such action might even lead to impeachment.

Yet Trump has continued to press Justice Department officials – including Whitaker, when he served as Sessions’s chief of staff – about the status of Clinton-related investigations.

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Never mind that Trump’s senior adviser and daughter, Ivanka Trump sent hundreds messages on her private email server to government employees and aides that detailed government business, policies, and proposals. Or that other Trump officials have used their private email to conduct official business as well.

Breaking the rule of law doesn’t require consistency. It requires only a thirst for power at whatever cost.

The third principle of the rule of law is that a president must be respectful of the independence of the judiciary.

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Yet Trump has done the opposite, openly ridiculing judges who disagree with him in order to fuel public distrust of them – as he did when he called the judge who issued the first federal ruling against his travel ban a “so-called” judge.

Last week Trump referred derisively to the judge who put a hold on Trump’s plan for refusing to consider asylum applications an “Obama judge,” and railed against the entire ninth circuit. “You go the 9th Circuit and it’s a disgrace,” he said. He also issued a subtle threat: “It’s not going to happen like this anymore.“

In an unprecedented public rebuke of a sitting president, John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, condemned Trump’s attack. “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

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Trump immediately shot back: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.” This was followed by another Trump threat: “Much talk over dividing up the 9th Circuit into 2 or 3 Circuits. Too big!”

Almost a half-century ago, another president violated these three basic principles of the rule of law, although not as blatantly as Trump. Richard Nixon tried to obstruct the Watergate investigation, pushed the Justice Department to prosecute his political enemies, and took on the judiciary.

But America wouldn’t allow it. The nation rose up in outrage. Nixon resigned before Congress impeached him.

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The question is whether this generation of Americans will have the strength and wisdom to do the same.

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Macron ‘hit Trump where it hurts’ with surprise Iran invite to G7: MSNBC analyst

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Reacting to a report that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise visit to the G7 summit, reportedly as part of a “covert invitation” from French President Emmanuel Macron, an MSNBC analyst suggested the leaking of the story was timed to get under Donald Trump's skin.

With the Washington Post reporting, "“Zarif’s arrival in Biarritz appeared to be a covert initiative by French President Emmanuel Macron, a senior European official said, and other leaders were not informed ahead of time," MSNBC political analyst John Harwood called the visit when all eyes are focused on Trump at the G7, a provocation.

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Trump blindsided after Macron ‘covertly’ invites Iran Foreign Minister Zarif to G7 summit for talks: report

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According to a report from the Washington Post, President Donald Trump and his staff were "blindsided" when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a surprise visit to the G7 summit, reportedly as part of a "covert invitation" from French President Emmanuel Macron.

The report states that Zarif engaged in conversation with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Dria, without the knowledge of anyone from the White House and that Trump himself was not aware of the meeting until a reporter asked him about it.

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Lindsey Graham ripped for telling Americans to ‘accept the pain’ from Trump’s trade war: ‘Tell that to the farmers’

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Appearing  with CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation" on Sunday morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told viewers they will start to see increases in products coming from China -- despite Donald Trump saying the Chinese will abord the costs of his tariffs -- and that they need to suck it up and "accept the pain."

As Graham explained it, "The Democrats for years have been claiming that China should be stood up to. Now Trump is, and we just got to accept the pain that comes with standing up to China. How do you get China to change without creating some pain on them and us? I don’t know.”

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