President Trump on Saturday morning increased his attacks on the judiciary, declaring on Twitter that "our legal system is broken!""Our legal system is broken! "77% of refugees allowed into U.S. since travel reprieve hail from seven suspect countries." (WT) SO DANGEROUS!" he tweeted, quoting a Washington Times article published Thursday.
Shortly after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously against the Trump administration in the controversy surrounding the president's Muslim ban, Donald Trump himself declared on Twitter, "SEE YOU IN COURT."In a brief exchange with NBC News soon after, the president added, when asked about his reaction to the court ruling, "Well, we will see them in court." Asked about his plans for an appeal, Trump added, "We'll see them in court. It's a political decision and we're going to see them in court.... We look forward, as I just said, to seeing them in court."Even at the time, the reaction didn't make sense. "See you in court" is something a person says before litigation begins, not after having lost at the district and appellate levels. (Trump's vow also may be factually wrong: the White House hasn't decided on its appeal plans.)With this in mind, the president switched rhetorical gears a bit over the weekend.
Soon after, Trump whined about a "court breakdown."We could emphasize that the president seems alarmingly unaware of the fact that refugees from the "suspect" countries have committed a combined grand total of zero terrorist attacks on American soil.But let's put that aside for now and instead focus on the fact that the sitting president of the United States has publicly declared the nation's legal system is, in his eyes, "broken."We've had plenty of presidents who've lost important cases in the courts, but no modern chief executive has ever said anything along these lines.A day later, Stephen Miller, a top White House aide, made the rounds on several Sunday shows, and further brought into question the Trump administration's respect for the judiciary on an institutional level.On CBS's "Face the Nation," for example, host John Dickerson asked Miller what Team Trump has learned in the wake of the legal setbacks. "The end result of this," Miller replied, "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."Let's pause to note that when White House officials tell the public that the president's powers "will not be questioned," there's reason to worry. (Dear Republicans, try to imagine the reaction if one of President Obama's aides said this during a nationally televised interview.)Miller went on to tell ABC News' George Stephanopoulos yesterday, "The point I want to make to you, George, and the point I want to make to your listeners, is that we have equal branches of government in this country. The judiciary is not supreme. A district judge in Seattle cannot force the president of the United States to change their laws and our Constitution because of their own personal views."In 1832, Andrew Jackson -- a source of historical inspiration for those who surround Trump -- didn't much care for a Supreme Court ruling. The then-president reportedly responded to the high court's decision by saying, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." The sentiment, which may be apocryphal, was intended to show an inherent lack of interest on the part of a White House in the judiciary's rulings.Nearly two centuries later, "The judiciary is not supreme" rhetoric has a familiar ring to it.Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) tried to assure the public that Donald Trump is "respecting the [legal] process, and that's what counts at the end of the day." But therein lies the point: Trump and his team clearly aren't respecting the process. They're attacking federal judges directly; they're trying to convince the public that the legal system is broken and should be blamed in the event of a terrorist attack; and they're even questioning the legitimacy of the courts' role in examining the president's poorly written, poorly executed executive order.