U.S.–Trump’s judicial picks advance the wealthy, right-wing takeover of the nation – By Mohamed Hamaludin

  — By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

With much of the nation focused on Donald J. Trump’s presidency since he took office in January 2017 and, more recently, his impeachment, not nearly enough attention has been paid to his appointment of federal judges, even though one in every four Circuit Court judge was nominated by him, 187 federal judges and two U.S. Supreme Court justices.

The result, The Washington Post has noted, is that Trump “has remade the federal judiciary, ensuring a conservative tilt for decades and cementing his legacy, no matter the outcome of the November elections.” That is because all are lifetime appointees and most are relatively young, including Allison Jones Rushing, who, at 37, is now the youngest federal judge and who is notorious for being anti-LGBT, and Eric Murphy, 39, who is also known for being anti-LGBT and for trying to make it harder for people to vote while he was Ohio’s Solicitor General.       

Presidents have the right to nominate federal judges, subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate, who lean towards his or her ideology. But, at the very least, the nominees should be qualified, especially as determined by their peers, usually the American Bar Association. More recently, presidents have tried to diversify their nominations but Trump’s are mostly white men. He takes his cue not from the ABA but from the Federalist Society, founded in 1982 initially as a student organization but which, in recent years, has been asserting a growing rightwing influence over judicial nominations.

The Society’s executive vice president, Leonard Leo, for two decades, The Post said, “has been on a mission to turn back the clock to a time before the U.S. Supreme Court routinely expanded the government’s authority and endorsed new rights such as abortion and same-sex marriage.” The Post called Leo “an unofficial advisor” to Trump, with good reason. The White House, in a statement in November, said his judicial appointees “will interpret the Constitution as written” and “will protect and honor the Constitution and the rule of law” – as if other judges have not.

Trump has a willing accomplice in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is infamous for holding up President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland for several months, resulting in Trump’s successfully nomination of Neil Gorsuch. Trump, McConnell and the Republican leadership made the federal bench vacancies  a central campaign issue while trying – successfully – to retain control of the Senate in 2018. Most of those vacancies existed because McConnell refused to bring Obama nominees up for consideration but his policy now is to “leave no vacancy behind.” In his rush to confirm even the unqualified, he curtails the time for debate on a nominee from 30 to two hours.

The example most frequently cited as to nominees entirely unqualified but still confirmed is former prosecutor Wendy Vitter, who, among other things, Shira A. Scheindlin of The Guardian reported, “routinely sought the toughest sentences against black defendants – including the death penalty – but not equally against white defendants.” Prior to her confirmation to the federal bench, Vitter had appeared in federal court only once.

Scheindlin predicted that Trump’s appointments “will do lasting damage,” according to the headline on her May 31, 2018, column. But HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery, commenting in March on McConnell’s “warp speed” confirmation process, said that he is “mostly replacing older Republican-appointed judges with younger ones.” She added that “the current balance of GOP-vs-Democratic appointed judges on these courts isn’t likely to look much different by the end of Trump’s term.”

That will change if Trump is re-elected and the Republicans keep the Senate. The president would be able to fill additional federal vacancies and perhaps name another two additional conservative Supreme Court members to succeed two liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, now 80, and the ailing Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 86, who could retire in a year or so. This should be a significant election campaign issue for Democrats but, as happened in 2016, it is not.

Even as it is, Trump and the rightwing elite already have enough control of the federal judiciary to realize much of their agenda dating back perhaps 75 years: curtailing laws which have expanded the rights of Americans and putting the rich more firmly in control of the country, with success already achieved in immigration and refugee policies and reversal of most Obama regulations. The real prize, though, are social programs such as Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security, the Affordable Care Act, and abortion rights.

As Nancy McClean reported  in her book “Democracy in Chains”, the wealthy class  realized that they could not succeed through national elections and therefore resort to gerrymander voting districts to give them control of state legislatures to accomplish, at the state level, what they cannot do nationally. The driving force behind this strategy is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is coordinating frontal attacks on many hard-won rights of Americans, among them LGBT rights and voting rights.

The courts are the next stage of this planned takeover of the levers of power, bypassing the will of the people. Favorite rightwing issues are being pushed to the courts, where increasingly sympathetic judges rule in their favor. Now wonder McConnell is confirming judicial nominees at “warp speed.”

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On January 3, 2020 at 2:58 am

    Why Trump Will Lose In 2020

    Rick Newman | Yahoo! Money

    WITH UNEMPLOYMENT AT A 50-YEAR LOW AND THE STOCK MARKET NEAR RECORD HIGHS, PRESIDENT TRUMP SHOULD BE A SHOO-IN FOR RE-ELECTION. HE IS NOT.

    In fact, Trump could very plausibly lose in November. Perhaps by a wide margin. HERE ARE THE REASONS WHY:

    THE ECONOMY IS NOT STRONG ENOUGH.

    There probably won’t be a recession by Election Day in November, but there will still be plenty of discontent. INCOME INEQUALITY HAS WORSENED UNDER TRUMP, WITH THE WEALTHY BENEFITING MUCH MORE FROM A BOOMING STOCK MARKET THAN WORKING- AND MIDDLE-CLASS AMERICANS.

    Evidence continues to mount that Trump’s signature achievement, the 2017 tax-cut law, benefited businesses and the wealthy more than ordinary workers.

    Trump and other backers of the law insisted a boom in business spending would follow the tax cuts, but Moody’s Analytics found recently that just 20-PERCENT of the corporate tax savings went to investment.

    THE OTHER 80-PERCENT WENT TO STOCK BUYBACKS AND DIVIDEND HIKES THAT MAINLY BENEFIT THE SHAREHOLDER CLASS.

    ECONOMIC GROWTH UNDER TRUMP PEAKED AT 2.9% IN 2018. It has slowed since then and will probably end 2019 around 2%, with even slower growth likely next year. That should be good enough to keep the unemployment rate low, BUT NOT NECESSARILY ENOUGH FOR TRUMP TO WIN.

    Trump’s net approval rating is -10.3, according to a Fivethirtyeight composite, which means his disapproval rating is about 10 points higher than his approval rating.

    Research by Alan Abramowitz of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics shows that an incumbent with a minus-10 net approval rating needs economic growth of between 2% and 3% to win re-election. TRUMP PROBABLY WOULD NOT GET THAT IN 2020.

    THERE IS ONE OTHER FACTOR BLOCKING THE NORMAL TAILWIND A PRESIDENT GETS FROM A DECENT ECONOMY:

    TRUMP IS THE FIRST PRESIDENT IN 150 YEARS RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION AFTER BEING IMPEACHED.

    IT IS ALSO POSSIBLE RECESSION FEARS COULD RETURN LATER IN 2020, JUST AS THEY MATERIALIZED IN THE SUMMER OF 2019.

    And some traders expect stocks to flatline or drop in 2020, perhaps even entering a correction that ends an 11-year rally. EVEN SMALL FLUCTUATIONS IN CONFIDENCE COULD BE ENOUGH TO SINK TRUMP.

    BLOOMBERG’S MONEY. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg probably won’t win the Democratic presidential nomination. But he could still end up being the most influential Democrat in the campaign. Bloomberg has pledged to spend whatever it takes to beat Trump in 2020, and the multibillionaire has virtually unlimited funds to do it. Money isn’t everything in politics, but Bloomberg has been adept at spending money on targeted ads and organizational activities that have helped to elect more Democrats in Virginia and push Democratic causes such as gun control.

    WHETHER HE’S THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE OR NOT, BLOOMBERG’S SPENDING ON BEHALF OF THE PARTY WILL PROBABLY PRODUCE A FINANCIAL ADVANTAGE, PERHAPS A DECISIVE ONE.

    TRUMP’S HEALTH CARE BLIND SPOT. Even in a decent economy, health care is a chronic problem for some people who don’t have insurance and others who do but still can’t afford the out-of-pocket expenses. TRUMP HAS NO PLAN ON HEALTH CARE, OTHER THAN CONTINUING TO TRY TO DISMANTLE OBAMACARE, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE 2010 AFFORDABLE CARE ACT.

    THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION REMAINS PARTY TO A CONTROVERSIAL LAWSUIT ATTEMPTING TO KILL THE ENTIRE LAW, WHICH MAY SUCCEED, canceling insurance for about 20 million people and restoring the old, heinous insurance company practice of denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. — THAT IS ABOUT 60 MILLION AMERICANS.

    EVERY DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE, BY CONTRAST, HAS A SERIOUS HEALTH CARE PLAN. Medicare for all, the Bernie Sanders plan for eliminating private insurance and forcing everyone into a government plan, is undoubtedly too radical for some voters. But Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and even Elizabeth Warren have plans for an optional government coverage for those who want it.

    A HEALTH CARE PLAN SEEMS LIKE AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS ARRIVED, AND TRUMP’S ONLY RIPOSTE IS TO RIFF ABOUT “SOCIALIZED MEDICINE” AND PROMISE A HEALTH CARE PLAN OF HIS OWN THAT PLAINLY DOES NOT EXIST.

    BARACK OBAMA’S ROLE. The former president has been largely silent about Trump, and also about the Democratic presidential contest. But it seems certain that once Democrats choose their nominee in 2020, Obama will fully back the candidate and campaign on his or her behalf. That could help boost minority turnout, which was weak in 2016 and contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss.

    TRUMP’S SO-CALLED BASE WOULD STICK WITH HIM, BUT THAT IS ONLY ABOUT 25-PERCENT OF THE ELECTORATE.

    OTHERS SUPPORT TRUMP BECAUSE THEY DISLIKE RADICAL DEMOCRATS SUCH AS BERNIE SANDERS OR FEEL TRUMP IS PRESIDING OVER A PROSPEROUS ERA THEY DON’T WANT TO DISTURB.

    IF ANY OF THOSE THINGS TURN DEMOCRATS’ WAY, TRUMP WILL BE A ONE-TERM PRESIDENT.

  • Clyde Duncan  On January 3, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    Trumpism is a Threat to the World — and The World Better Get Used To It

    Diane Francis | Financial Post

    Donald Trump has enacted some sensible policies, but he represents a clear and present danger to the world. That may sound hyperbolic, but consider where we would be if his first term had played out a little differently.

    IMAGINE, FOR EXAMPLE, if the Mueller investigation or impeachment inquiry had NOT hung over Trump’s head for the past few years.

    FOR STARTERS, THE 34 PEOPLE AND THREE COMPANIES WHO HAVE BEEN INDICTED OR CONVICTED BY MUELLER’S TEAM — including some of Trump’s top advisors and a cadre of Russian hackers — WOULD STILL BE OPERATING FREELY.

    AND WHAT IF THE WHISTLEBLOWER HADN’T SQUEALED ABOUT TRUMP’S UKRAINIAN SHAKEDOWN ATTEMPT?

    If Trump had succeeded in strong-arming Ukraine’s President into announcing a fake investigation of Joe Biden and his son, we might be looking at an entirely different race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

    Trump might have gone further, too, forcing Ukraine to exonerate Russian President Vladimir Putin by falsely stating the U.S. election in 2016 had been sabotaged by Ukrainians, NOT Russians.

    How much time would Americans have spent distracted by such “alternative facts”?

    Now imagine if he’s acquitted by Republican Senators during an impeachment trial: WHAT COMES NEXT?

    IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO ENVISION TRUMP DOING WHATEVER IT TAKES TO GET RE-ELECTED.

    TRUMP will make promises he has no intention of keeping.
    TRUMP will ignore judges, prosecutors and Congress.
    TRUMP will become an exaggerated version of himself, more isolationist, autocratic, transactional and vindictive.
    TRUMP will pardon all his accomplices.

    To some, that may sound improbable, but consider what’s happened already even though he faces trial.

    TRUMP slanders and obstructs Congress and courts.
    TRUMP’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, and others continue to concoct and publicize discredited allegations against Biden and Ukraine.
    TRUMP has instructed the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to essentially rig the Senate impeachment “trial” and proclaim the whole matter a fraud before hearing from witnesses or reading documents.

    IF RE-ELECTED, DOES ANYONE REALLY BELIEVE THIS BEHAVIOUR WILL CHANGE?

    MORE LIKELY, IT WILL WORSEN. Trump will require world leaders to be as pliant as Republicans.

    Trump will push Canada and others around, opt out of NATO, pull troops out of Japan and South Korea, then make deals with other dictators to carve out spheres of influence around the world, economically and militarily.

    Many suspect Trump’s friend Putin is preparing to invade and annex Belarus next, and that he is collaborating with China, Turkey and Iran to control the Middle East and beyond.

    WOULD A SECOND-TERM TRUMP DO ANYTHING TO IMPEDE SUCH PLANS?

    Re-election will give Trump a chance to become a de facto dictator.

    Trump will have four more years to dismantle legislative or regulatory controls and oversight, attack the press and demolish political enemies.

    TRUMP’s PARDON POWER WILL NEGATE THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM.

    Health care, Social Security and even the Federal Reserve Bank itself would be at risk.

    TRUMP HAS ALREADY MUSED ABOUT MAKING HIMSELF PRESIDENT FOR LIFE — WHAT BETTER TIME TO MAKE IT A REALITY?

    Donations will pour in – like tributes to Caesar, further securing his power and family’s wealth.

    His instincts are even disconcerting to some of his evangelical followers.

    “He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals,” Christianity Today editor-in-chief Mark Galli wrote in a recent editorial. “He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone — with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders — is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.”

    At the same time, the Democrats offer no clear-cut alternative and are in disarray with their “open mic” nomination process. Few have the credentials or economic chops to govern or to control the moneyed interests that put Trump in power. The bottom line is the Americans are damned if they fail to impede Trump and damned if they do.

    The U.S. Presidency is too powerful — and the political system too inept to control it.

    Trump’s lawlessness will be replicated by him or others and so will America’s global bullying. That’s because power corrupts. Therefore, get ready for 2020.

    And, GET OVER IT.

  • Trevor  On January 3, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    Trump is preparing America for war with Iran.

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