People For the American Way

Team Trump’s Litmus Test for Judges: Blind Deference to the President

News and Analysis
Team Trump’s Litmus Test for Judges: Blind Deference to the President

Today, Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser to President Trump, appeared on Sunday talk shows and made a series of statements that, together and separately, cast grave doubts on the Trump administration’s respect for the independent judiciary and their plans for the federal courts.

On ABC News, speaking to George Stephanopoulos, Miller argued that “the judiciary is not supreme. A district judge in Seattle cannot force the president of the United States to change the laws and our Constitution because of their own personal views.”

On CBS, he went even further, telling John Dickerson that “the President’s power…will not be questioned.”

Well, I think that it’s been an important reminder to all Americans that we have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become in many case a supreme branch of government. One unelected judge in Seattle cannot remake laws for the entire country. I mean this is just crazy, John, the idea that you have a judge in Seattle say that a foreign national living in Libya has an effective right to enter the United States is — is — is beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.

The end result of this, though, is that our opponents, the media and the whole world will soon see as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.

Miller’s remarks come not long after Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s team walked back reports that he’d tepidly criticized Trump’s ongoing attacks on judicial independence after the President reacted angrily to the story on Twitter. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, on Fox News, made clear that President Trump and his Supreme Court nominee “support each other.”

In Politico, late last month, Trump adviser and confidant Roger Stone went even further, making clear that loyalty to the President was a key qualification for any Supreme Court nominee.

“If Trump is going to be a transformational president, not a transitional president, he needs a supportive court,” said Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser. “Not a conservative court, not a right-wing court — a Trump court.”

And, of course, Donald Trump himself has repeatedly attacked judges who ruled against his unconstitutional Muslim ban.

All told, Americans have a mountain of evidence that Donald Trump’s chief criterion for selecting judges isn’t competence or independence but blind deference to Donald Trump himself.

That’s not at odds with what he found in Judge Neil Gorsuch, whose time on the federal bench has been marked by his support for broad executive authority.

In an effort to win confirmation, Gorsuch’s supporters have attempted to paint the nominee as an independent figure who can be trusted to put the Constitution above loyalty to the man who put him on the bench. That claim fails on two counts. First, there’s no evidence to support it. And second, if Neil Gorsuch is really willing to stand up for judicial independence, why was he nominated by Donald Trump?