In the almost six years since Donald Trump was elected president, there’s been very little in the way of accountability for his misdeeds. The central tenet of the rule of law—that no man is above it—has been on life support, at least until this week. Many Americans struggled to believe the system could still work, because it has failed to make a difference for a particularly willful former president who had no respect for the law when it ran contrary to his personal purposes while he was in office and has even less regard for it now. Perhaps there’s now some light at the end of the tunnel.
When the government obtained a search warrant to recover classified documents Trump took to Mar-a-Lago and refused to return, the former president filed a lawsuit challenging DOJ’s right to use the fruits of the search to investigate him and demanded that they be handed back over to him. Amazingly, a federal judge entertained his faulty arguments, giving them seeming credibility they didn’t merit.
It’s quintessentially Trumpian. Trump’s modus operandi has always been to undermine democratic institutions in conniving, calculated, cynical, ways to benefit himself. If it serves his purposes, he’ll attack a federal judge over their ethnicity, pressure an Attorney General to fire an FBI agent who is investigating him, or countenance threats against members of Congress. Trump’s actions have a very real knock-on effect of undercutting Americans’ support of and trust in democracy. He is at his most shameless when he portrays himself as a martyr and characterizes any investigation launched against him as a witch hunt. That tactic, which Trump has used again and again, seriously undermines the confidence of Americans—both those in his base and those who would like to see him held accountable—in our criminal justice system.