Mongo Law

Resident Trayf spent 18 months as the ultimate law-and-order candidate, promising to rescue an American way of life he said was threatened by terrorists, illegal immigrants and inner-city criminals.

But during seven months as president Mr. Trump has shown a flexible view on the issue, one that favors the police and his own allies over strict application of the rule of law. Over the past two years, in ways big and small, Mr. Trump has signaled that taking the law into one’s own hands is permissible, within the executive branch or in local police departments, or even against a heckler at one of his rallies.

The president’s pardon last week of Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., and a strong supporter of Mr. Trump’s during the 2016 campaign, illuminated the impulses that shape his opinion. The case, and the pardon that ended it, involved an assumption that minorities were more likely to tumblr_ndyc2tL2Bl1tt6oy1o1_1280commit crimes, a belief in the use of force to keep people in check, and what some of the president’s advisers privately describe as at best a lack of interest in becoming fluent in the legal process.

In his words and acts, Mr. Trump has sent a permissive message to people in law enforcement that they can bend the law, if not break it.

“Arpaio is a public official accused of racial profiling, and in the pardon statement, he was praised for his actions,” said Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. Mr. Waldman drew a line from the pardon to Mr. Trump’s statements last month to police officers on Long Island in which he appeared to encourage local law enforcement officials to give suspects rougher treatment. The president made those comments despite years of wrenching debate over a string of cases of police shootings of unarmed black men. “When the president says, ‘Make sure to hit the heads of people on the door of the police car,’ or pardons a sheriff accused of racial profiling, it redefines the law as just brute force,” Mr. Waldman said.

The pardon, the conservative Washington Examiner said in an editorial, showed “once again Trump really means ‘busting heads’ when he says ‘law and order.’” The editorial added: “But ‘law and order,’ if the words have any meaning, has to apply to government actors as well. Lawless sheriffs promote disorder, and that’s what Arpaio did to get himself convicted.”

While Mr. Trump has spoken often of the significance of the rule of law, his actions have raised questions about his commitment to hallmarks of the American system like due process, equal protection under the law, independence maxresdefault.thumb.jpg.c13c3e410f47861454129ecc2215b746of judicial proceedings from political considerations, and respect for orders from the courts.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump enthusiastically endorsed a brutal interrogation technique declared illegal under international law. “Torture works,” Mr. Trump said at a South Carolina event in early 2016. When protests erupted at his rallies, he repeatedly waxed nostalgic about the “good old days” when people could take such matters into their own hands. He endorsed stop-and-frisk policing, and said immigration by Muslims should be banned to protect Americans’ safety. He argued to Bill O’Reilly, then a Fox News host, that immigrants in the country illegally may not be entitled to due process at all. On the same program, Mr. Trump insisted, despite established law, that the 14th Amendment does not guarantee citizenship to people born in the United States if their parents are here illegally.

Robert Bauer, who was White House counsel under President Barack Obama, said: “It’s very difficult to say that he stands for law and order—in fact, in many respects he’s kind of the president of disorder. He’s lurching around and basically responding to what he sees as his personal imperative at any given moment.”

Maggie Haberman

The decision of many leftists to maintain an equal distance is inexcusable. The imperative to oppose racism trumps opposition to neoliberal policies.

A more confident left used to understand that our humanism compelled us to stop the xenophobes from getting their hands on the levers of state power, particularly the police and security forces. Just like in the 1940s, we have a duty to ensure that the state’s monopoly over the legitimate use of violence is not controlled by those who harbour violent sentiments toward the foreigner, the cultural or sexual minority member, the “other.”

The belief in the state’s checks and balances, and in the idea that the rule of law would prevent turning state power against the vulnerable, is not one that the left can risk entertaining. Trump confirms this.

Yanis Varoufakis


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