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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    Trump v. United States

    On this day, July 4, Americans celebrate the independence of the 13 original colonies from the rule of King George III of England in 1776.

    Today is the day of all days to reckon with the decision issued by six of the nine Supreme Court justices on July 1, 2024 in Trump v. United States.

    The decision declares a president to have “absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for actions within his conclusive and preclusive constitutional authority.” The long-term effects could become evident as soon as the next presidential inauguration, but the immediate effect is shock. The decision contradicts a fundamental lesson all Americans learn in school or in naturalization classes: that in the United States, no person is above the law.

    No person governs as a king does, free from the laws that apply to all others. A king rules subjects. Americans are not subjects. We are citizens, equal under the law. Until now.

    It would be the task of the Constitutional Convention after the American Revolution to formulate the principles ensuring equality and the rule of law, but the purpose of the written declaration of July 4, 1776, was to state why. The reasons have never resonated more than in these words we celebrate today:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security....To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

    And from the listed Facts:

    He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance...

    He has refused for a long time, ... to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

    He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

    He has obstructed the Administration of Justice....

    Under the constitutional system of checks and balances, the founders carefully constructed a brilliant system that would allow for a strong executive able to act swiftly and decisively; a legislative branch that would be most accessible to the electorate and wield power through the purse strings; and an independent judiciary designed to move deliberately.

    Congress could, and might, pass laws that seek to clarify the application of this new judicial decision, but Trump v. United States is now a matter of constitutional law. That takes a long time to change. The Supreme Court majority, by long and patient behind-the-scenes machinations, is now stacked to remake the most basic principles of American democracy. How utterly ironic, yet unsurprising, that the judicial coup would announce itself with a case titled Trump v. United States.

    The already contentious election of 2024 has become more significant than ever. If a president can do whatever he or she pleases, American voters need to make sure they elect a leader of integrity who will not abuse the lack of restraints on presidential power.

    The founders directly repudiated unbridled power. Americans today must uphold that principle with peaceable but undeniable insistence. This is no time “to suffer, while evils are sufferable.” Soon, they may not be.

    The Day editorial board meets with political, business and community leaders to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larraneta, Owen Poole, copy editor, and Lisa McGinley, retired deputy managing editor. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.