“In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem.”
— George Carlin, comedian, social commentator 1936–2008
BY RICHARD C. GROSS
The Feds are just plain fed up with the garbage flowing from Trump’s ugly untamed juvenile mouth, prompting prosecutors to again ask a federal judge for another gag order to shut him up.
Trump was indicted in this case on charges of trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election in which President Biden beat him by 7 million votes. Prosecutors gave their 19-page motion to federal Judge Tanya Chutkan earlier this month, but its redacted copy was held for release until Sept. 15.
She hasn’t ruled on the motion as of this writing.
“The defendant’s repeated, inflammatory public statements regarding the District of Columbia, the court, prosecutors, and potential witnesses are substantially likely to materially prejudice the jury pool, create fear among potential jurors, and result in threats or harassment to individuals he singles out,” prosecutors argued.
“Like his previous disinformation campaign regarding the 2020 presidential election, the defendant’s extrajudicial statements are intended to undermine public confidence in an institution — the judicial system — and to undermine confidence in and intimidate individuals — the court, the jury pool, witnesses and prosecutors,” they wrote.
Here’s an example of a Trump blast he wrote on his Truth Social website after special counsel Jack Smith first asked Chutkan to impose a gag order on the former president earlier this month:
“So, I’m campaigning for President against an incompetent person [Smith] who has WEAPONIZED the DOJ & FBI to go after his political opponent, & I am not allowed to COMMENT? They Leak, Lie, & Sue, and they won’t allow me to SPEAK?”
The perennially scowling man-child may not shut up unless he’s jailed for contempt of court, with his Chrome laptop and Sharpies taken away.
But there may be another way. Get him to do what children do: Make him pinky swear. Don’t laugh. Kids take that stuff very seriously. Just ask a preadolescent.
It’s said the pinky swear originated in Japan, where it’s called “yubikiri,” which means “finger cut-off” if you break your promise. It’s been part of our language since 1860, when it was included in Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms.
Speaking of being fed up with Trump, a move to disqualify him from the presidency based on a section of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution has gained some traction among lawyerly factions, some of them Republican.
The unusual long shot initiative has gone as far as a lawsuit filed in a Colorado state court in Denver to prohibit the secretary of state from printing Trump’s name on the Republican primary ballot, The New York Times reported. Trump surely would appeal if the court favored the effort.
A liberal group, Free Speech for People, wrote to secretaries of state in Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin urging them not to put Trump’s name on the ballot, the Times said.
The operative part of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says:
“No person shall be a senator or representative in Congress, or elector of president and vice president, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who having previously taken an oath as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”
One potential problem: The office of president is not specifically mentioned in the amendment.
Congress ratified it in 1868, three years after the Civil War, when southerners elected people to Congress who held prominent positions in the Confederacy or had backed rebellion or insurrection against the United States.
What brought this issue to the surface now was a 126-page law review article at the University of Pennsylvania arguing the 14th Amendment prohibits Trump from becoming president again. It was written by two conservative law professors, William Baude of the University of Chicago and Michael Stokes Paulsen of the University St. Thomas.
Two well-known law experts supported their argument.
“The former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and the resulting attack on the U.S. Capitol, place him squarely within the ambit of the disqualification clause, and he is therefore ineligible to serve as president ever again,” J. Michael Luttig, a retired federal appeals judge, and Laurence H. Tribe, a onetime constitutional law professor at Harvard, wrote in The Atlantic.
Then another hiccup burst forth Monday: Steven G. Calabresi, a law professor who helped found the ultra-conservative, influential Federalist Society from which Trump chose three conservatives for the Supreme Court, wrote in a letter to The Wall Street Journal that Trump cannot be disqualified from being president.
Why? Because, he wrote, the 14th Amendment’s clause about “an officer of the United States” “refers only to appointed officials, not to elected ones,” the Times’ Adam Liptak reported Monday. He had changed his mind from enthusiastically supporting Trump’s disqualification, Liptak wrote.
Trump “isn’t covered by the disqualification clause, and he is eligible to be on the ballot in the 2024 presidential election,” Calabresi wrote.
But, he wrote, “Trump is loathsome,” adding, “I strongly urge my fellow Americans to vote against Trump, almost no matter what else is the alternative.”
That certainly was a major blow to the campaign to get rid of Trump politically once and for all. So, what may remain is a concerted effort by the electorate to vote in huge numbers for Biden to knock Trump out of the race and wholeheartedly serve notice that country and democracy come first. Just ask Volodymyr Zelensky about the importance of democracy.
Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.