Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: Donald Trump

Celebrity Fascism in America

I am so not impressed with news people and pundits coming forward lately to condemn Donald Trump. I’m trying to figure out where have they been? Were they in America in 1989 when Trump insisted that the innocent Central Park 5 should be put to death?

Trump’s 1989 Ad in the New York Daily News
Credit: Photograph: NY Daily News Archive

Were they in America in 2008 when Trump insisted that President Barack Obama was not an American-born citizen? Where were they in 2016 when he attacked Sen. John McCain? Where were they when he signed an Executive Order banning Muslims from entering the country?

The Media Embraced Trump

Yes, they were here. In fact, it was the media that gave Donald Trump his celebrity status as a Presidential contender. They turned Donald Trump into “just another candidate.” Trump was someone they knew – a television celebrity. The media respects Trump, much like Roger Ailes (his good friend) or Harvey Weinstein. According to writer Will Bunch, one study found that in 2015, Trump’s total airtime on network TV was 234 minutes. Compare that to just 10 minutes for Bernie Sanders. All the while, mainstream media maintained that Trump is not a fascist, and fascism could never happen here.

Yet, here we are. Not without warning. There were numerous writers who called the Donald out as an American-made celebrity fascist. For example, in July 2016, in the New Yorker Magazine, Adam Goplik pointed out that:

““Trump is unstable, a liar, narcissistic, contemptuous of the basic norms of political life, and deeply embedded among the most paranoid and irrational of conspiracy theorists. . . . he came to politics as a racist, a proponent of birtherism.”

We All Knew He Was A Celebrity Fascist

I can hardly believe that anyone else really, genuinely did not know that Trump has “a scheming mind, attuned very well to the ways in which hatred and intolerance can be manipulated.” His advocacy against the Central Park 5, his shrill birtherism slurs against Barack Obama were mere precursors to his recent attacks on the Squad and Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Indeed, people in New York were not under any illusions about who and what Trump is. In the past week, government officials around the world have acknowledged that they are not under any illusions about Trump’s threat to the world as a proponent of fascist ideas. The horrific chants in North Carolina on July 17, 2019 forced world leaders to come clean with their real views about Trump’s racist regime. They recognize celebrity fascism in America.

Credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

In 2016, in the wake of the presidential election, I wrote a piece entitled “Will He Keep His Promises?” Unfortunately, the answer 35 months later is “yes, he will, and yes, he is.

Celebrity Fascism Steals the Show

Donald Trump is a veteran entertainer. He likes nothing more than stealing the show. Donald Trump is very good at stealing the show, having been mentored by media moguls like Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon. So, every time he is threatened by bad news, he takes to Twitter and steals the show with outrageous tweets. Our attention is thus, not on the funding of inhumane concentration camps by the federal government, but rather on his ridiculous tweets.

SO what exactly did Rep. Elijah Cummings do to trigger Trump? Elijah Cummings is the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. According to one investigator, Elijah Cummings “is probably the single most dangerous person to Trump” in this post-Mueller era.

The Oversight Committee has successfully won the right in court to subpoena Trump’s financial records from his accountant. The Committee plans to issue subpoenas for emails and texts that high-level White House officials sent on personal accounts discussing official business – subpoenas that apply to Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. So Trump attacks Elijah Cummings (and an entire city) to deflect attention from an investigation that threatens to unmask his administration, his fraud and his family.

As we struggle against celebrity fascism in America, we must remember 3 very important lessons:’

  1. this period that writer Andrew Wood describes as catastrophic poverty, wealth inequality, and environmental degradation that has engulfed Ameria started long before Donald Trump decided to run for President;
  2. Trump is a master manipulator and his attacks on other elected officials for standing up to his immoral actions – such as incarcerating immigrants and using the government to enrich himself and his family – are designed to distract attention from the underlying atrocities and illegal actions that he is engaged in;
  3. last but not least, “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.

Losing the Federal Government

I feel like we’re tettering on the edge of a cliff.  The next deep breath, we fall into the abyss.

What Just Happened?

Today, April 6, 2017, is truly one of the last days of American democracy.  Why? Because today, the Republican Senators voted to change the rules of the U.S. Senate. They made the change to ensure that Democratic Senators will no longer have a voice in voting on federal judges at any level. It also means that, tomorrow, the right wing of the American judiciary will take over the U.S. Supreme Court for possibly at least the next 50 years. So, the transformation of America is complete.  Elections do matter. The bloodless coup which became apparent in November 2016 is complete.

Who Is Neil Gorsuch?

This dramatic rule change was necessary to get Judge Neil Gorsuch of Colorado appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch is the son of Anne Gorsuch. Anne was a Ronald Reagan appointee who at one point was the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). She cut the EPA’s budget by 22% and reduced the number of cases filed against polluters. Ann also relaxed Clean Air Act regulations and facilitated the spraying of restricted-use pesticides. She hired EPA staff from the industries they were supposed to be regulating.  According to her Wikipedia page, Anne is the first agency director in U.S. history to be cited for contempt of Congress after she refused to comply with a subpoena.

Judge Gorsuch’s background as a litigator is one of privilege. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991.  He clerked in the D.C. Circuit federal court and the U.S. Supreme Court after law school. He then joined an elite D.C. law firm and stayed there for 10 years, representing corporate clients and billionaires.  In 2015, his former firm paid new associates “a starting bonus “of $175,000 or a $330,000 signing bonus to those who clerked for Supreme Court Justices. Gorsuch left the firm in 2006 when George Bush appointed him to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

What is His Record?

Judge Gorsuch is the heir to Antonin Scalia. Like Scalia, Judge Gorsuch says he will “look backward.” He believes the Constitution should be interpreted the way it was interpreted when it was written. No matter that in the original Constitution, Black folks are only 3/5 of a person and women do not have the right to vote. In Gorsuch’s view, the infamous Dred Scott decision would be “good law” because it is based on what the judges then understood the law to be. He would also support the decision in Plessy v. Ferguson which ruled that Jim Crow laws were constitutional. The Court’s understanding of the law at that time legalized discrimination that endured for nearly sixty years.

His record on women’s rights and civil rights as a federal judge is troubling.  In February 2017, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 107 civil rights organizations signed a letter opposing his nomination. What is really scary, however, is that the National Rifle Association (the NRA) just dropped a million dollars to support his nomination. Gorsuch’s apparent views on guns led Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and its sister organization, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, to oppose his nomination. Under Gorsuch, America’s status as the most violent country in the world will be preserved.

“Defective from The Start”

Gorsuch says using the courtroom to “debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary.”  If Gorsuch opposes using courts to debate social policy, he likely will oppose efforts to change any policies in the Courts.  His views are exactly opposite from the greatest lawyer and judge America has ever known, Justice Thurgood Marshall.  In 1987, Justice Marshall pointed out that “we the people no longer enslave, but the credit does not belong to the framers. It belongs to those who refuse to acquiesce to outdated notions of liberty, justice, and equality and who strived to better them.” He said “the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today.”

Donald Trump promised to appoint a “Scalia-like” justice to the Supreme Court. He is keeping his promise. Justice Scalia was a rabid opponent of affirmative action and voting rights. He wrote the Walnart v. Dukes decision that ended one of the largest class-action suits in history and set civil rights progress backward for years. Scalia opposed gay rights and a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. Scalia denied protection to victims of domestic violence and he wanted to abolish the Miranda rule protecting a defendant’s right to remain silent. The truth is, if Judge Gorsuch starts where Scalia left off, he too will be “defective from the start.”

The Greatest Threat of All

The Greatest Threat of All

I remember the first time I ever heard Tom Steyer speak. It’s 2014. We’re at the San Francisco Bay Area Lawyer’s Committee Annual Martin Luther King Luncheon. Tom stands before a thousand lawyers. Tom is not a great public speaker. He stumbles as he thanks us. Initially, I am not impressed with this person. He is not a lawyer.  As I listen to him speak, however, he gets my attention. He engages my understanding of global warming.  In short order and very dramatically, Tom Steyer has an impact on me and everyone else in the room. He makes us know and believe that climate change is the greatest threat to our existence on the planet. I quickly develop an appreciation for the work that Tom does to save the planet. Eventually, I join his organization, Nextgen Climate.

Climate Change Is Real

polar-bear-global-_3339474bClimate change is not a hoax.  I have been haunted for years by the dramatic images of stranded polar bears. Polar bears swim in the Artic sea and live between the water and the sea ice. Global warming causes sea ice to melt.  Melting sea ice means reduced access to food, increased cannabilism, lower cub survival rates and increased drowning of these unique creatures, among other challenges. The U.S. Geological Survey projects that two thirds of polar bears will disappear by 2050.

The “Climate Criminal”

Fast forward to 2016.  News breaks that President-Elect Donald Trump selects Myron Ebell to head Trump’s transition team at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Trump claims that climate change is a hoax. He says “the Chinese” created climate change to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive. Mr. Ebell’s new job is to set the direction of the federal agencies that will address climate change and environmental policy under Donald Trump’s leadership.

ebellMyron Ebell is currently the Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Peabody Energy Corporation, America’s largest underground coal mining company, oil giant ExxonMobil and foundations controlled by the billionaire Koch brothers are major donors to CEI. CEI has been one of the most vocal opponents of the Clean Power Plan developed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan seeks to reduce carbon pollution in our air by 32 percent by 2030. It could result in the closing of many coal-burning power plants. CEI has published a “hit list” of Executive Orders it thinks should be repealed by President Trump.

In 2015, environmental activists in Paris labeled Mr. Ebell a “climate criminal” wanted for “destroying our future.” One Hundred and ninety-five countries, including the U.S. signed the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce carbon emissions worldwide. Mr. Ebell leads the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of conservatives that focuses on dispelling “the myths of global warming.” He wrote an article called “Love Global Warming,” in which he states that “higher temperatures are killing people who are likely to die soon anyway.” He opposes the Endangered Species Act and the Paris Climate Agreement. He says that he wants more funding to “combat the nonsense put out by the environmental movement.

If He Keeps His Promises

If Donald Trump keeps his campaign promises, he will shut down the EPA. We are facing the greatest threat to the planet in our lifetime. Donald Trump will leave us defenseless. He will certainly try to confuse the issue. He may try to force us into collective denial of all the scientific evidence of global warming. Mr. Ebell poses a particular threat to California because he helped kill national “cap and trade” legislation in 2009. We have our own “cap and trade” program which is a key component of California’s climate plan. How Mr. Ebell will try to undercut our state climate plan remains to be seen. His followers and supporters in the coal and oil industries may give him a few very bad suggestions. As California has led the nation on this issue, we will probably have to lead the fight to save the planet.

Will He Keep His Promises?

Will He Keep His Promises?

I woke up Wednesday morning in Trumpland. My worst fears are coming true. Will he keep his promises?  In the first days I am upset and depressed. I feel better as I hear others calling out to fight back. In the months between Trump’s election as President and his inauguration, most of us will gather our thoughts and renew our passports (just in case).

The media tries to push the country into denial. Even elected officials maligned by Trump insist that he did not really mean what he said. They say he will be “different” as the President than the person who ran for President.

If He Keeps His Promises

If he is true to his word, on Day 1, President Trump will issue an Executive Order suspending the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and any funding to support the Act. His actions may send the economy and world markets into a downward spiral.

If he keeps his promises, President Trump will direct the FBI to re-open its investigation of Hillary Clinton. We should not be surprised if newly appointed Attorney General Rudy Giuliani orders Hillary’s arrest.

first-they-cameIf he keeps his promises, President Trump will invest millions of dollars to ramp up the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). ICE will develop a comprehensive plan to locate and deport millions of working and poor people suspected of immigrating from Mexico, South America, Syria or Haiti. We should expect that vigilantes will volunteer to assist in the effort to deport these “illegal aliens.” He will also immediately start construction of the wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

We should not be surprised if President Trump rejects the Obama administration’s position on private prisons and directs the Bureau of Prisons to renew all of the private contracts.  We should expect that funding for re-entry of formerly incarcerated persons, community policing and mental health services will be severely reduced. California will continue to be the leader if not the only state committed to working against mass incarceration in America.

If he keeps his promises, President Trump will champion laws to defund Planned Parenthood and declare abortion completely illegal. Led by Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican-controlled Congress will likely pass these laws.

What President Trump labels “locker room talk” may became more prevalent in our schools and public places. Our efforts to stop violence against women and eliminate commercial sexual exploitation of women and under-age girls are likely to receive minimal support in the new Trump administration.

Packing SCOTUS with Scalia Clones

If he keeps his promises, President Trump will immediately appoint a Scalia-like judge to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court.  Justice Scalia was a rabid opponent of affirmative action appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan. In 2015, Justice Scalia appeared to openly endorse a racist argument that Black students do better at “slower-track schools” stating:

Most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them. . . . I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer [Black students]. Maybe it ought to have fewer.

President Trump will likely have more opportunities to “pack the court” with Scalia-inspired justices, based on suggestions from the Federalist Society and The Heritage Foundation, two right-wing conservative think-tanks.

The Good News

The good news is that already, everywhere, resisters to the Trump Presidency are organizing. In the Democratic Party, progressives are organizing to redeem the party. One of the most poignant “calls to action” was issued “the day after” by former Emerge Director, Kimberly Ellis.  She’s running to change the face of the Democratic Party.

Outside the party, thousands, perhaps millions, have joined Bernie Sanders’ ourrevolution.org. Black Lives Matter continues to be an inspiring movement rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country and committed to the empowerment of our community. And I really believe that if there ever comes a day that Latinos and immigrants are being hunted down en masse and sent off to concentration camps, most of us will not watch silently and fail to “speak out.”*  We are our brother’s keeper.

Finally, I was honored by Hillary’s final words to the Obamas: “To Barack and Michelle Obama, our country owes you an enormous debt of gratitude. We thank you for your graceful, determined leadership.” The Obamas together, made all of us look kindly on and feel better about America. I hope that once we recover from the shock of Trump’s election, we will “shake the dust off our feet” and keep stepping toward the light. The race is clearly not given to the strong or the swift but to he that endureth.  “Banish the darkness with light.”

*  Quote from “First They Came for the Socialists”.  Martin Niemoller (1946).

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