Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A New Low in Dog Whistling: Threatening a Sitting Federal Judge

Just when you think Donald Trump can't possibly lower the bar of civil discourse any further, he knocks it down a few more pegs. 

As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo observes, this is the first time in U.S. history that a legitimate candidate for President of the United States has "personally attack[ed] and even threaten[ed]" a sitting federal judge.

The judge in question, Gonzalo Curiel, is presiding over two fraud lawsuits involving Trump's real estate "university," and things aren't working out in Trump's favor in Judge Curiel's courtroom. 

So what does Trump do? What he does best, of course: launch ad hominem attacks intended to rile up his supporters. 

But the problem is his target isn't just anyone this time. It's not Megyn Kelly or Rosie O'Donnell or Anderson Cooper. It's not a TV personality with a petty tweet beef. It's a federal judge, and you don't just go around casually talking smack about federal judges. 

Trump publicly accused Judge Curiel of bias, continually referencing his "Hispanic" and "Mexican" heritage, which according to Trump "is fine," but also the only reason he's losing in court. Not because Trump bilked people out of millions of dollars and is actually guilty of scamming them, of course; but because, you know, Trump is "very, very strong on the border."

I think Trump knows what he's doing, and it's an extremely serious and dangerous game to play. Every lawyer knows this. Every public figure of every political stripe knows this. And anyone with common sense knows it too.

Judges--and in particular federal judges in this country where the average toddler can get their hands on a gun more easily than they can a square meal--are protected by multiple layers of courtroom security with very good reason. 

I'm a practicing attorney and no matter how many times I enter the federal courthouse or whether the security guards know me, I go through two metal detectors to get into the courtroom every time. These are judges who preside over serious criminal cases, and this judge specifically was apparently targeted for assassination by a Mexican drug cartel during his tenure as a federal prosecutor.

Donald Trump has done and said so many repellent, xenophobic, malicious, misogynistic and fallacious things over the past few months, it's impossible to catalog them all. He's shown complete contempt for and/or ignorance of countless constitutional principles he'll have to swear to uphold as president. 

But using your bully pulpit to attack a sitting federal judge? That's not just careless, it's flirting with criminal conduct. Donald Trump should probably STFU about members of the federal judiciary before he finds himself running afoul of statutes that quite rightly make it a crime to threaten a judge. 

At a minimum, he should get off Twitter long enough to brush up on 18 U.S.C. sec. 115. 

Fldmnbzfh9s9lwgarprfPhoto: AP

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