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Posts published in “Richardson”

A conservative decision


Last week, a federal district judge blocked enforcement of President Trump’s executive order threatening to cut federal funding to “sanctuary cities,” those that do not help the federal government apprehend and deport undocumented immigrants.

In his ruling, Judge William H. Orrick of the Northern District of California explained that the president had attempted to usurp powers that belong to Congress – that he cannot, by fiat, impose conditions on federal funds.

That power belongs to Congress and, were Congress to impose conditions, it would have to ensure that the conditions were unambiguous; imposed before the funds had been accepted; and had a nexus with the federal program’s purpose. In other words, for Congress to condition a grant on a city helping the federal government apprehend and deport undocumented immigrants, the grant would have to have some connection with law enforcement or immigration.

Finally, and importantly, the financial inducement could not be coercive. That is to say that state and local governments cannot be commandeered to enforce federal law. As the judge noted, the administration clearly intended the executive order to be coercive. As support, he cited President Trump’s unabashed declaration that the executive order would be “a weapon” to wield against sanctuary cities.

The day the court announced its decision, Idaho’s junior Senator Jim Risch criticized the ruling, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that it was the product of a “left-leaning judge.” Risch flatly predicted that appellate courts would reverse it. I think he’s wrong on both counts.

Frankly, this is a rather conservative decision. It upholds the constitutional principle of separation of powers and fortifies the Tenth Amendment which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Republicans have long complained that judges have given the Tenth Amendment short shrift and that the growth of federal power has come at the expense of the states. How odd then that those Republicans who have long railed against federal meddling in traditionally local activities – like city policing – now champion that very thing.

Trump’s knee-jerk response to Judge Orrick’s ruling was to threaten to break up the Ninth Circuit. He talks as if he could accomplish this on his own, but once again he forgets that congressional action would be required. Of course, some members of Congress would like to see the Ninth Circuit carved up, but I think that’s a non-starter.

Exactly eighty years ago, Franklin Roosevelt was miffed at the judiciary. He put forward his “court-packing” plan, a blatant attempt to punish the Supreme Court for blocking his New Deal legislation and “pack” the court with additional justices who would shift the court’s philosophical balance and uphold his agenda. His plan, born of frustration, met with widespread bi-partisan opposition. The American people, who strongly supported Roosevelt’s agenda, nonetheless disapproved of such machinations.

Now Trump, in a fit of pique, hopes to intimidate the federal judiciary with ham-handed threats. His immature rants are likely to backfire. I expect the American people will become more – not less – protective of judicial independence. Federal judges should not be above criticism, but that criticism – especially when it comes from the president – should be directed to the wisdom, integrity, and intellectual honesty of their opinions, not because they refuse to rubber stamp the president’s political agenda.

If Trump thinks Judge Orrick is mistaken, he has a right to appeal the court’s decision to the Ninth Circuit. But, if he does appeal, I predict the Ninth Circuit and the Supreme Court – should it consider the case – would affirm Judge Orrick’s ruling. And I expect that Trump, in his ignorance of the Constitution, will continue to take actions that will be rebuffed by the judiciary. He will continue to lose – not only in federal court, but in the court of public opinion.

Risch should recuse


Appearing on last Sunday’s morning news show hosted by the local NBC affiliate, Idaho’s junior senator showed himself yet again to be the most strident of partisans. James Risch, who is a member of the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and Intelligence, embarrassed himself fawning over Trump's international escapades. "America is back," he crowed.

Really, Senator?

What about Trump lying about - or not knowing - the whereabouts of the "armada" he sent to provoke his North Korean counterpart? Certainly, that did little to instill confidence in our Asian allies.

What about his declaration that NATO was obsolete? Oh, never mind, that was just a rhetorical frolic during the campaign.

What about the utter hypocrisy of bombing Syria to punish Assad for the inhumanity of using toxic gas on his own citizens, while he himself would sentence desperate refugees to death by banning their entry into our country?

What about Trump's much-touted border wall that treats our neighbor to the south as though all of its people are pariahs?

What about Trump's total ignorance of history and diplomacy that leads him to declare in astonishment that Chinese-North Korean relations are "complicated." Who knew?

What about Trump's desire to blithely walk away from crucial international agreements, like the Iranian nuclear deal and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change?

And what about Trump's gushing tributes to strong men in Russia and Turkey while refusing to so much as shake the hand of Germany's Angela Merkel?

Examples of Trump's utter incompetence in foreign affairs abound. Yet, Risch, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, loudly sings his praises.

No, Senator, America is not "back," because we have a money grubbing, saber-rattling, know-nothing bully in the White House. If anything, America is "back," because hundreds of thousands of Americans are resisting Trump's bellicose, divisive rhetoric and his bumbling, truly dangerous agenda.

Even more troubling is the fact that Risch is a member of the Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the extent to which Russia meddled in our election and whether Trump and his team were complicit. Methinks a Trump lackey like Risch will not be fair or impartial, that he will decide Trump is in the clear no matter the evidence to the contrary. And, increasingly, it’s looking like there will be a mountain of evidence to the contrary.

If America is "back," it is because even in ruby red Idaho ever more people are coming to understand that "leaders" like Risch are not leaders at all, but followers, timid souls who grovel before the likes of Trump. It's time Trump's fanboy recuse himself from the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation. Sadly, we can't trust Risch to put country before party.