Do the Rich Dudes Want the Court to Ban Trump or Not?
Now that several of the Republican justices have been so heavily saturated with fat-cat money and thus regularly vote in favor of their morbidly rich “friends,” what do those rich dudes want?
This Thursday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Trump v Anderson, which will determine whether Trump can appear on the ballot and hold office if elected or if he’s disqualified by virtue of his having incited an insurrection on January 6th.
The really fascinating part of this whole drama, though, will have to do with the power politics “behind the thrones” on the Court. Now that several of the Republican justices have been so heavily saturated with fat-cat money and thus regularly vote in favor of their morbidly rich “friends,” what do those rich dudes want out of Thomas, Roberts, Alito, Gorsuch, and their other “investments”?
Do they want their toadies on the Court to keep Trump off the ballot because he’s more likely to lose against Biden than is Haley or somebody else? Or, like Fritz Thyssen in Germany in 1933, do they still think they can control him and he’ll give them more tax breaks and deregulation and anything else they want if they help him become president again?
While political and legal commentators will be hyperfocused on the arguments made for and against Trump being able to stay on the ballot, I’ll be looking for any indications that at least a few of the justices may be peeling off from Trump because their sugar daddies are concerned about his electability or erratic behavior.
Trump’s defense has largely been confined to a few technical points.
The 14th Amendment says that any person who’s acting as “a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States” will be barred if they engage or have “given aid or comfort” to an insurrection.
So, his first defense is that the president isn’t “an officer of the United States.”
Trump’s position on this was actually endorsed by the District Court Judge, Sarah Wallace, who originally said Trump could remain on the Colorado ballot; her decision was overturned on that basis by the Colorado Supreme Court, who said an interpretation like that is “inconsistent with the plain language and history” of the 14th Amendment.
Trump’s second defense is that while the language of the 14th Amendment is clear, it’s never been activated or put into effect by enabling legislation passed by Congress. John Yoo, who wrote the pro-torture memos for George W. Bush, has submitted an amicus brief with the Court in this case that makes exactly this argument.
His third defense is that January 6th wasn’t actually an “insurrection”: it was something else. A protest, maybe. Or a tourist visit. Or even an “interruption of Congress for a few moments.” But not an insurrection.
And a very weak fourth defense is that the 14th Amendment was meant to be wielded against Confederate turncoats in the wake of the Civil War and simply no longer applies.
Given that the 14th Amendment’s provision against seditionists serving in public office was applied hundreds of times in the years after its passage — including to prevent Jefferson Davis from running for president — a group of some of the top Civil War scholars and historians in America have submitted their own brief arguing that preventing Trump from appearing on ballots nationwide is purely and simply consistent with history and past enforcement of that law.
Their brief also points out that the presidency is referred to as an “office” in multiple places throughout history, as well as the president himself being referred to as an officer of the United States.
For example, they knock down the “not an officer” argument with ease:
“During the congressional debates, Senator Reverdy Johnson of Maryland, a Democratic opponent of the 14th Amendment, challenged sponsors as to why Section 3 omitted the President. Republican Senator Lot Morrill of Maine, an influential backer of congressional Reconstruction and the 14th Amendment, corrected the Senator. Morrill replied, ‘Let me call the Senator’s attention to the words ‘or hold any office civil or military under the United States.’ Senator Johnson admitted his error; no other Senator questioned whether Section 3 covered the President.
“Similarly, debates over the Amnesty Act of 1872 demonstrate that decision-makers understood that Section 3 barred former Confederate President Jefferson Davis from running for President of the United States, a disqualification that amnesty would remove. Republican Senator James Flanagan of Texas warned that ‘Jefferson Davis is living,’ and if ‘the disabilities of Jefferson Davis were removed,’ the Democrats in finding ‘candidates for the Presidency and Vice Presidency … would go no further than Jefferson Davis.’”
As much as the Republicans on the Supreme Court try to pretend they’re neither political nor bought off by their morbidly rich “friends,” they are very much both. And they control the Court itself.
So the big question here won’t be what the law or the Constitution say: five Republicans on the Court completely ignored the 10th Amendment when they gave the White House to George W. Bush by blocking the statewide recount the Florida Supreme Court had ordered in the 2000 election. On multiple occasions, Republicans on the Court have shown they’re more than willing to ignore the Constitution or even common sense.
The real question that’ll be litigated this week is whether the billionaires who own this Court want Trump on the ticket or not, and, if they don’t (and there are plenty of reports this is the case), whether a majority of the Republicans on the Court are willing to take the heat for disqualifying him.
No matter how they rule, this is going to be a tough one for the Court’s most corrupted Republicans who’ve taken millions from their morbidly rich donors and “friends.” Time to get the popcorn ready…