Supreme Court drives a stake through the heart of democracy
People protest outside the Supreme Court Monday, July 1, 2024, in Washington. | Mariam Zuhaib/AP

WASHINGTON—The Republican-named Supreme Court majority’s grant of absolute and perpetual immunity from federal crimes to Donald Trump, strictly because he had been president, sparked fast and furious outrage and waves of condemnation that are sweeping across the nation.

The ire was directed at the court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, which ruled that Trump is immune from crimes he carried out when in office. Three of the nine justices, in the strongest-ever dissent to a Court decision by sitting justices, declared that the majority had turned Trump into a virtual king.

The ruling is seen as almost literally handing a convicted felon the 2024 election over President Biden since it silences the major pending trials the criminal ex-president faces.

“The president is entitled to a presumption of protection from prosecution for all his official acts,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote. Especially affected is the D.C. trial dealing with Trump’s orders and aid to the 1,000 Trumpite invaders and insurrectionists who attempted the coup d’etat at the U.S. Capitol, ravaging it, on Jan. 6, 2021. But also involved is the Florida federal trial over the top-secret papers Trump stole from the White House and stashed at his Mar-a-Lago palace in Florida.

In her harsh dissent from the majority 6-3 ruling, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that “the decision to grant immunity makes a mockery of the principle foundation that no man is above the law.” She said that, in effect, the ruling turns the president into a king.

No sooner did the ruling come out that Trump began celebrating all over social media that it was “a victory for democracy” and that it made him “proud to be an American.”

Sotomayor said, “The court creates a law-free zone around the president upsetting the status quo existing since the foundation.”

Top critics reacting to the emergency for democracy facing the nation were former AFL-CIO Political Director Michael Podhorzer, President Biden, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and AFT President Randi Weingarten, a New York City civics teacher who also holds a law degree.

Followed the lead

All followed the lead of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote the seething dissent for herself and the two other Democratic-named justices, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson. Biden endorsed Sotomayor’s outrage.

“At long last, can we all stop pretending that Alito, Thomas, Barrett, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh are legitimate jurists?” Podhorzer asked in a series of tweets, referring to all the GOP-named justices in the majority, except for Chief Justice Roberts. Trump named Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch to the court.

“They are politicians who were effectively ‘appointed’ to the court by the Federalist Society, which has turned the Supreme Court into an unaccountable super-legislature. Their mission is to repeal and replace the 20th century—to destroy the guardrails protecting Americans from civil rights violations and corporate predations.”

Trump also wants a monarchy, Justice Sotomayor declared. She wrote the majority made the president “a king above the law.

“When he uses his official powers in any way, under the majority’s reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution. Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power? Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.

“Let the president violate the law, let him exploit the trappings of his office for personal gain, let him use his official power for evil ends. Because if he knew he may one day face liability for breaking the law, he might not be as bold and fearless as we would like him to be. That is the majority’s message.”

Justice Sotomayor: “A president should not be above the law.” She said the ruling makes Trump a king. | Mark Schiefelbein/AP

Will file articles of impeachment

“The Supreme Court has become consumed by a corruption crisis beyond its control,” Ocasio-Cortez declared in a tweet. “Today’s ruling represents an assault on American democracy. It is up to Congress to defend our nation from this authoritarian capture. I intend to file articles of impeachment upon our return” from Congress’s Independence Day break.

Ocasio-Cortez did not specify which justices she would file against, but Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito have been recipients of lavish gifts and trips from Republican biggivers, including at least one with business before the court.

Justice Alito—who is also rigidly anti-worker and anti-union—has flown two flags which the January 6 invaders used, one in front of his D.C. area home and the other at his vacation home. Justice Thomas’s spouse, Ginni, a right-wing Republican lobbyist, advocated for the invaders within the White House.

“The Supreme Court fundamentally changed presidential power,” said AFT President Weingarten. “After it arrogated power to itself in the Chevron case, it has now arrogated more power than the founders ever envisioned to a president.”

The Chevron case, a 40-year-old precedent which the six Republicans nixed the week before, is important to workers. It takes away what’s called Chevron deference. Under Chevron, if an agency—such as OSHA—writes a rule to curb corporate abuses and excesses, judges must defer to its expertise unless the agency can’t explain its decision or if its decision breaks the law.

Now, the majority said, all rules must be run through Congress, or the courts, gumming them up, which is what the corporate class demands. Firms are then free to carry out depredations and repression.

Now, says AFT President Weingarten, so can Trump.

“While President Trump is not immune for his personal acts, by granting him immunity for ‘official acts,’ the court makes a mockery of the rule of law and casts aside the danger of concentrating power in one person’s hands,” Weingarten continued.

“For the first time, a president can engage in otherwise illegal acts without any accountability, and for the first time, a president is now above the law.

“The founders spoke repeatedly of the need to protect the country against demagogues and crafted a constitution to defend against them. Today, the Supreme Court tried to vitiate (corrupt) their intent and allowed the former president’s thirst for power to trump the Constitution.

“By delaying the decision, the justices would rather kick the can down the road than allow the American people to hear a trial about whether someone who incited an insurrection to overturn a free and fair election in 2020 should be reelected in 2024. Today’s ruling tears at the fabric of our democracy, and the damage won’t be easily, or ever, repaired. And it makes the stakes of this election clear.”

Biden said it’s up to voters to do what the justices did not do: Hold Trump accountable for his crimes.

“For all practical purposes, today’s decision almost certainly means there are virtually no limits on what a president can do. It’s a fundamentally new principle,” Biden said in late-evening remarks at the White House. “The only limits will be self-imposed by the president alone.

“The power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, even including the Supreme Court of the United States.”

“The American people must decide if Trump’s embrace of violence to preserve his power is acceptable,” Biden said, referring to the Jan. 6 insurrection. “Perhaps most importantly, the American people must decide if they want to entrust the presidency to Donald Trump, now knowing he will be even more emboldened to do whatever he pleases whenever he wants to do it.”

In another contrast with his Republican foe, Trump, Biden pledged “to respect the limits of presidential powers” in the U.S. Constitution.

Needless to say, ever since Biden stepped into the presidency, congressional Republicans have accused him of violating the Constitution-—precisely what Trump did. Their criticisms, and praise of the pro-Trump immunity ruling, continued, showing clear genuflection to the convicted felon’s political clout.

And elected Republicans aren’t the only ones who kowtow to Trump’s wishes.

Federal judges he named, including those on the court itself, have overturned Biden’s rules on everything from stopping the coronavirus to cleaning up the environment, as going too far. And Trump-named U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, handling the Mar-a-Lago secret papers case in Florida, has gummed it up with even more delays, and mused about throwing it out.

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John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.