The God-King insists he’s above the law, and his belligerent ignorance is pushing us into a war…. (More)
“Mr. Trump is immune from suit because he is President of the United States”
Donald Trump’s lawyers in a Friday afternoon federal court filing argued that he cannot be sued for inciting his supporters to hurt protesters because, as the president, he is immune from civil lawsuits.
The lawsuit was brought by three protesters who allege they were roughed up and ejected by Trump supporters from a March 2016 campaign rally in Louisville, Kentucky, after Trump barked from the stage “get ’em out of here!”
The lawsuit seeks damages from two Trump supporters who confronted the protesters, as well as Trump’s presidential campaign and the president himself, since the protesters argue the Trump supporters were acting at his direction.
It’s not just the protesters who claim that. One of the defendants is blaming the God-King too:
But [the God-King’s] claim was undermined by a separate Friday filing from one of the Trump supporters, Alvin Bamberger, a member of the Korean War Veterans Association who was captured on video pushing the lead plaintiff, a young African-American woman named Kashiya Nwanguma.
While Bamberger’s lawyers in their filing said their client “admits only that he touched a woman,” he “denies that he assaulted that woman.”
But, Bamberger’s lawyers stressed that “to the extent that Bamberger acted, he did so in response to – and inspired by – Trump and/or the Trump Campaign’s urging to remove the protesters.”
They added that Bamberger “had no prior intention to act as he did” and “would not have acted as he did without Trump and/or the Trump Campaign’s specific urging and inspiration.”
As such, Bamberger’s lawyers argue, if there is a monetary judgment against Bamberger, Trump or his campaign should be forced to bear the cost of it.
The God-King did, after all, offer to pay legal fees for anyone who beat up a protester at one of his rallies. But now he says he’s untouchable:
The immunity claim is a new one in this case, but it follows other efforts by Trump’s lawyers to invoke the argument against separate civil cases stemming from allegations against Trump dating from before he was sworn in as president.
“Mr. Trump is immune from suit because he is President of the United States,” the lawyers wrote in the filing, which requests a jury trial.
Presidents can’t be sued for official acts, but the U.S. Supreme Court held in Clinton v. Jones that they can be sued for acts not related to their duties as president. But while the Court allowed the lawsuit against President Clinton, it was a federal lawsuit and the U.S. Supreme Court considered only a president’s liability in federal court. The God-King says that means he can’t be sued in state courts, as is happening in the Kentucky incitement to violence case and several sexual harassment lawsuits.
Legally, that’s a very shaky argument. The Court didn’t address a president’s immunity in state courts because that wasn’t an issue in the Clinton v. Jones case. And while the Supremacy Clause says the Constitution and federal statutes hold over state laws when they differ, in this case the laws don’t differ. Presidential immunity covers only actions in the course of one’s duties as president. It does not apply retroactively to actions taken before one was elected. Much as he’d like to be, the God-King is not above the law.
“We must as a nation be more unpredictable”
But the current slide toward war with North Korea seems as predictable as the chain of actions and reactions described by Barbara Tuchmann in her landmark The Guns of August. In 1914, an assassination in Serbia, mutual defense treaties, countries’ needs to call up their reserves to be ready for war, and each interpreting the others’ call-ups as escalation … combined to make war all but inevitable.
Yesterday saw both North Korea and the U.S. playing dueling military parades. And while North Korean dictators have hurled threats for decades, previous U.S. presidents treated both the Kims and their threats as petty nuisances.
What’s different now is Donald Trump. Whereas many of his predecessors steered sedulously clear of escalatory rhetoric, preferring to treat various North Korean leaders as recalcitrant children at worst or distasteful but nevertheless semi-rational negotiating partners at best, Trump has threatened North Korea via Twitter, declaring that the regime is “looking for trouble.” As my colleague Uri Friedman pointed out Thursday, three successive presidents prior to Trump, since the Clinton administration considered military action against the North’s then-nascent nuclear program, have opted for trying negotiations rather than risk a strike. It’s apparent that none succeeded in halting the nuclear program’s progress. But it’s equally apparent that the kind of massive conflagration on the Korean peninsula that world leaders are now warning against has been avoided since 1953.
For allies, enemies, and observers alike, though, Trump appears to be a wild card, and self-avowedly so.
But here’s the thing. Turgid irrationality – dick-waving – only works if the other party is rational. By definition, “Don’t cross me … you have no idea what I might do” demands that the other person weigh risks carefully. But Kim Jung-un is every bit as turgidly irrational as the God-King.
Yet it’s also the case that uncertainty raises the risks of miscalculation on either side – and, in a tense confrontation between two nuclear powers, the potential costs. Threats of preventive strikes, or even leaks that such strikes could be under consideration, can prompt the other side to want to strike first. There’s a reason that, when NBC reported Thursday based on intelligence sources that the U.S. was prepared to implement exactly such an option, senior officials from the Pentagon quickly disavowed the story and declared it “extremely dangerous.” There’s a reason that the Chinese foreign minister is urging “all sides to no longer engage in mutual provocation and threats, whether through words or deeds, and [not to] push the situation to the point where it can’t be turned around and gets out of hand.” Even the most predictable of leaders must make decisions about each other’s likely actions, and have imperfect information even with the best intelligence, and act on those educated guesses. When two leaders each habitually bluster and exaggerate, there’s a higher likelihood of making a catastrophic mistake based on a bad guess.
This isn’t a case of President Nixon’s Madman Theory playing off a predictable opponent like North Vietnamese President Tôn Đức Thắng. This is two two-year-olds having tantrums … backed by nuclear weapons.
What is endearing, terrifying and hilarious about Trump is not simply his ignorance, really his militant ignorance, but his complete lack of self-awareness about his ignorance. Trump told a reporter for The Wall Street Journal that his understanding of the problem of North Korea changed dramatically after hearing ten minutes of history from the President of China. Needless to say, Trump didn’t need to admit this. But neither was it candor.
So far the Trump Presidency has been a sort of Mr Magoo performance art in which the comically ignorant Trump learns elemental or basic things that virtually everyone in the world of politics or government already knew – things that the majority of adults probably know. Health Care: “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.” North Korea: “I felt pretty strongly that they had tremendous power. But it’s not what you think.” There are perhaps half a dozen examples equally stark.
In other words, President Trump is open about his discoveries and even eager to share them but universally projects his previous state of comical ignorance onto the general public or whomever he is talking to.
The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky extends that analysis:
That’s the tell, that “nobody knew.” When Trump says “nobody knew” that health care, for example, could be so complicated, what he of course means is that he didn’t know, because in Trump’s beautiful mind, he equals everybody. If he didn’t read it, nobody read it. If he didn’t know it, nobody knew it. It has apparently never occurred to him that other people read things, because reading, to him, is like learning Mandarin or quantum physics. Nobody learns Mandarin or quantum physics. Although of course people do, but those people are so far outside Trump’s realm of comprehension that they don’t even exist to him.
This is the truth of what we’re dealing with. If you watch some cable news, you’ll hear people suggesting in effect that well, during the campaign, Trump had X position as a candidate, and now that he’s president, he’s seeing that things are more complicated than he thought and he’s adopting Y position. He’s growing.
This is propaganda, either witting or unwitting, depending on who’s talking.
The truth is that candidate Trump just said stuff. He had no idea what he was talking about. He said it because people applauded. So he kept saying it. And now that he’s the president and is being told things, complicated things, about the real world as it exists, things that every one of the other 21 candidates for president from the two major parties knew, he’s saying other stuff.
Launching missies at Syria got rave reviews – cable news loves wars and disasters, because wars and disasters make people tune into cable news – so he ordered the ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ strike on Afghanistan and started threatening North Korea. He’s not learning about the world. He’s learning what gets applause … and what gets the media to stop asking questions about Russia and other inconvenient issues.
Yes, military leaders want to know what the God-King’s underlying strategy is. But they’re begging the question.
More likely, he has no strategy – no specific, desired ‘end state’ – except to look tough, get positive news coverage, and rescue his still-in-the-toilet approval numbers.
That makes ‘The Guns of April’ a very disturbing story….
Photo Credit: Andrew Harrer-Pool (Getty Images)
Good day and good nuts