President Donald Trump may have gotten more than he bargained for Friday, when he posted three tweets, just sixteen words in total, that stunned and infuriated the nation and have legal experts weighing in on just how much trouble he could be in.
One, a former U.S. Dept. of Justice official, suggests possibly a lot.
But first, the tweets:
The average Trump supporter might say, “So?” Or, as Trump has often defended his actions, he has a First Amendment right to say what he wants.
Both are wrong, according to Mary McCord, a former Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice, and former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, according to her bio at Georgetown Law, where she is a Visiting Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center.
If all that’s not enough, McCord currently serves as the Legal Director at the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection (ICAP).
In other words, she knows what she’s talking about. And what she’s saying, in a just-published Washington Post op-ed, is Trump’s actions meet the definition of inciting insurrection, and inciting insurrection is “illegal.”
“President Trump incited insurrection Friday against the duly elected governors of the states of Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia,” McCord begins. “Just a day after issuing guidance for re-opening America that clearly deferred decision-making to state officials — as it must under our Constitutional order — the president undercut his own guidance by calling for criminal acts against the governors for not opening fast enough.”
The op-ed’s subtitle notes: “Federal law bans advocating the overthrow of government.”
There’s a lot more, but she sets up her argument well.
“‘Liberate’ — particularly when it’s declared by the chief executive of our republic — isn’t some sort of cheeky throwaway,” McCord continues. “Its definition is ‘to set at liberty,’ specifically ‘to free (something, such as a country) from domination by a foreign power.’ We historically associate it with the armed defeat of hostile forces during war, such as the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control during World War II. Just over a year ago, Trump himself announced that ‘the United States has liberated all ISIS-controlled territory in Syria and Iraq.'”
In that context, it’s not at all unreasonable to consider Trump’s tweets about “liberation” as at least tacit encouragement to citizens to take up arms against duly elected state officials of the party opposite his own, in response to sometimes unpopular but legally issued stay-at-home orders.
McCord also says – and this is important for the naysaying MAGA KAGs in the back, “we can’t write these tweets off as just hyperbole or political banter.”
And that’s why these tweets aren’t protected free speech. Although generally advocating for the use of force or violation of law is protected (as hard to conceive as that may be when the statements are made by someone in a position of public trust, like the president of the United States), the Supreme Court has previously articulated that where such advocacy is “inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action,” it loses its First Amendment protection.
Read McCord’s entire op-ed here.
Tolerance and violence: The fate of religious minorities during the plague under Christianity and Islam
Pandemics are nothing new—they scythed through the ancient world as they did the pre-modern and, as we know to our grief and confusion, they are still mowing us down today.
We might think that human nature is fairly invariant across time and space, and expect the response to these catastrophes to be perennially the same. Certainly, in the 21st century there are disturbing echoes of the way Jews were blamed by European Christians of the 14th century for the Black Death. From the US to the UK, from Iran to Indonesia (the largest Muslim country in the world), there has recently been an escalation of abuse and violence against Chinese and Asian-looking people. And not just Asians. Political groups and politicians have latched on to coronavirus as a weapon in their anti-immigration policies, urging their partisans to hunker down and suspect the alien minority. In a bid for votes President Trump seems to be using coronavirus to whip up anti-Chinese feeling. In India, egged on by the BJP, the ruling Hindu nationalist party, Muslims have been viciously attacked and accused of conspiring to kill Hindus by deliberately spreading the disease.
These psychological motives have shaped right-wing conservatism in America ever since the Civil War
Many people who see little rational basis for supporting Donald Trump ask themselves: Why is he so popular? Relatedly, why did so many people support Richard Nixon, Adolf Hitler, and other avatars of popular right-wing conservatism? There are, of course, many different reasons for each situation. But there also key commonalities that have been identified in meta-analyses of the topic written by the psychologist John T. Jost and colleagues. In relation to Jost’s work, I have examined aspects of the antebellum South in order to better understand its political culture, especially aspects of that culture that prompted many Southerners to become more emotionally receptive to the appeals of “fire-eater” secessionist conservatives. More broadly, this historical lens can help illuminate the mass appeal of conservatism in general, focusing particularly on the psychological factors that tend to underlie this appeal.
‘The god of under par’: Trump critics wonder why he went golfing instead of going to church after deeming them ‘essential’
President Donald Trump proclaimed that all houses of worship were "essential" and must open whether they wanted to or not. While Americans had a choice of whether to attend services at their church, Trump maintained that "it's not right" to have churches be closed.
"So I'm correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential," he said during a statement at the White House. "I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now. If there's any question, they're going to have to call me, but they're not going to be successful in that call. The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend. If they don't do it, I will override the governors. In America we need more prayer, not less."