Legal critics have warned that Trump’s contempt for the rule of law would start impacting criminal proceedings and that prediction, sadly, came true.
Earlier this week The New York Times weighed in on Trump’s ongoing attacks on America’s judicial system, reporting that it “threatens to erode trust in the law.”
Continuing, The New York Times provided an example of how that might play out in a courtroom:
It is a once-unimaginable scenario: Sometime soon in an American courtroom, a criminal defense lawyer may argue that the prosecution of an MS-13 gang member is a politically motivated “witch hunt” built around a witness who has “flipped” and taken what the lawyer calls a plea deal of dubious legality.
He will be quoting the president of the United States.
That is potentially the gravest danger of President Trump’s sustained verbal assault on the country’s justice system, legal experts say. In his attempt at self-defense amid the swirl of legal cases and investigations involving himself, his aides and his associates, Mr. Trump is directly undermining the people and processes that are the foundation of the nation’s administration of justice.
Sound hyperbolic? Not really. Take for instance the fact that Business Insider reported late Tuesday that, in a New York trial, “an attorney for a crack dealer tried to use Trump’s attacks on ‘flipping’ in his closing argument in a court case.”
Kafahni Nkrumah, the attorney for Jamal “Mally” Russell, began to mention the verdict surrounding Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, before the judge intervened.
Nkrumah reportedly later said he intended to reference Trump’s suggestion that flipping “ought to be illegal” that he had made on the show “Fox and Friends” earlier that day.
Concerns that Trump is undermining the rule of law are nothing new, but they have intensified in the wake of what Rolling Stone described as ” the longest and lowest week of the Trump presidency,” that being last week:
Trump’s ex-campaign chairman (Paul Manafort) was convicted on eight counts of tax and bank fraud. His former lawyer and fixer (Michael Cohen) — who said last fall that he’d take a bullet for the man — pleaded guilty to eight counts, including campaign finance violations that implicate the president. Immunity was granted to one powerful friend with direct knowledge of damaging secrets [National Enquirer CEO David Pecker], followed by news of an immunity deal given to the CFO of the Trump Organization (Allen Weisselberg).
The Washington Post reported last week on the broader implications of Trump’s assault on the rule of law in regards to the long-established practice of “flipping:”
The practice is one of the most powerful tools investigators use to dismantle secretive, insular criminal organizations, including gangs, and to uncover other crimes…
Alberto R. Gonzales, who was attorney general under President George W. Bush, and Neal Katyal, solicitor general under President Barack Obama, both said it was a necessary tool.
“If President Trump’s views were the law, literally thousands of criminals would be on the street today,” Katyal wrote in an email.
The Washington Post went on to point out the clear double-standard established by Trump:
Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who was fired by Trump, said the president has “turned the concept of the rule of law upside down.” On the one hand, Trump talks about tough law enforcement tactics when it comes to going after gangs such as MS-13. On the other hand, Bharara said, the president “preaches nothing but softness when it comes anything that touches people close to him.”
Concluding their article, The Washington Post wrote:
Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted Gambino crime family boss John Gotti, described Trump’s statements about the criminal justice system as “the modern-day version of a particularly inarticulate mobster.”