Trump's Supreme Court States The Obvious: He Owns Them

Trump's Supreme Court States The Obvious: He Owns Them

Justice Amy Coney Barrett

Yesterday morning the Supreme Court ruled on the Colorado case striking Donald Trump from its election ballot because, as the Colorado Supreme Court held, he is an insurrectionist as defined under paragraph 3 of the 14th Amendment. As expected, they threw the case out, effectively deciding for Trump and against Colorado. The decision was interpreted as a huge win for Trump practically everywhere: “A massive victory for Trump” screamed CNN; “The U.S. Supreme Court handed Donald Trump a major victory,” chorused Reuters.

Donald Trump himself, like the megalomaniac he is, cruised over to his social media lie-factory and yelled from whatever rooftop it’s under, “BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!”

The vote on the court was 9-0, meaning that all nine justices voted for Trump’s position that a single state, Colorado, cannot throw a candidate off its ballot under the 14th Amendment. The decision for the court as a whole was unsigned, but there were two concurrences disagreeing with the decision on a somewhat less than subtle ground we’ll get to in a moment.

One of them, written by Justice Amy Comey Barrett of all people, uttered the quiet part out loud. She openly said what the whole court wouldn’t – that the case was so terrifying, they just pushed it off their desks. “In my judgment, this is not the time to amplify disagreement with stridency. The Court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election. Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the Court should turn the national temperature down, not up.”

She may as well have begun with “Oh, my goodness!”

You have to wonder what it would take to shock this Supreme Court into taking action -- maybe a decision by a court in a state like Alabama ruling that in some circumstances it’s okay to murder Black people in cold blood?

I guess what Justice Barrett said was a version of Bush v. Gore, another “politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election,” when the Supreme Court told the world they didn’t really mean it as they installed George W. Bush as president even though Al Gore was ahead in the vote count. Remember how, having injected themselves into the election, the Supreme Court said that’s not what they were doing by trying to limit the damage when it held that the case was not to set a precedent? That was like saying, “Oh, that body over there with democracy on its forehead? Whatever you do, don’t pay attention to that.” Barrett’s concurrence did something of the same thing. She said she agreed with the result of the decision – her favorite president gets to stay on the ballot – but not with the, uh, methodology of how the majority got there.

What the five justices in the majority did was this: they, and the rest of the court for that matter, utterly ignored the finding by the Colorado Supreme Court that Donald Trump had committed insurrection. How could they do that when the whole purpose of paragraph 3 of the 14th Amendment was to deal with the results of the insurrection which had just taken place, namely the Civil War? Well, the Supreme Court said it’s not our job to enforce the 14th Amendment. That’s up to Congress.

Which is like saying, oh, we’ll just leave that problem up to the snarling pack of rabid dogs over there. They’ll get together and do it for us.

To call this position taken by the court bullshit isn’t sufficient. It’s a gigantic, muciferous, glob of a lie. Besides dealing with the scourge of insurrection, the 14th Amendment was written after the Civil War to confer citizenship rights on former slaves and to ensure that the Southern states, which had treated them like property, afforded former slaves and every other citizen “equal protection under the laws.” Brown v. Board of Ed is just one example of when the Supreme Court enforced the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal rights under the law, and many, many other similar cases have addressed the rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment without the help, if it could be called that, of Congress.

So, why is the court at this juncture pointing over there across First Street on Capitol Hill and saying, in effect, “it’s their problem"? Because they know the Congress can’t get itself together to keep the fucking government open by passing a budget, much less address the issue of the damn insurrection that took place right there in front of them and forced them from their offices and chambers and left five dead.

Donald Trump did that, and the three justices on the court appointed by him, along with the other three Republican justices in his thrall, will not be the ones who uphold the law in the Constitution which so clearly disqualifies him from holding a federal office. They’re scared of offending Trump and his violent followers. Why, if they did that, it might interrupt the vacation they’re planning this summer at one billionaire’s Adirondack camp or another billionaire’s salmon fishing stream.

I have become accustomed to reading these appeals court decisions. Hell, it has become a major part of my job. But I have trouble finding the words to describe what a profile in cowardice this Supreme Court decision is. If they use this decision as precedent and continue washing their hands of enforcing the 14th Amendment, it spells the end of equal enforcement of the laws in this country. To leave enforcement of basic rights up to the Congress is to disavow the responsibility the Supreme Court took upon itself in Marbury v. Madison to be the final arbiter of what the Constitution says and what the law means. Leaving those decisions up to the band of yahoos who are running things in the nation’s legislature is like asking the thieves who just robbed the bank to toss us a few pennies as they divide up their ill-gotten gains.

This decision negating the insurrection clause in the 14th Amendment, raises the question of whether the three post-Civil War amendments -- ending slavery, conferring the right to vote, and ensuring equal protection of the laws without regard to race, creed, or national origin -- will have any force at all in the coming years. The Supreme Court already eviscerated the rights of Black people to vote with Shelby County v. Holder. What is next on the right-wing agenda? Allowing segregated schools? Enforced labor for immigrants seeking citizenship?

Steel yourselves. I’m afraid this is just the beginning.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

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