An exhaustive catalogue of the Trump White House’s demonstrated contempt for the rule of law is hardly possible within my allotted column inches. But let’s consider some of the highlights, among the heaps of wrongdoing committed by White House aides, Trump Organization employees and the president himself — as well as lawbreaking outside the administration that our president has either ignored or encouraged.
Including, most recently, lawbreaking by law enforcement itself.
There is the obvious, individual-level stuff, such as violations of campaign finance laws by Trump’s personal lawyer under what prosecutors say was the direction of his (unindicted) client, a.k.a. “Individual 1.” Or the dozens of times that senior White House aides have violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in certain partisan activities. Trump himself has publicly granted underlings impunity for these violations.
Aides have repeatedly violated the Presidential Records Act by conducting official business through unpreserved private emails — a transgression that Republicans once seemed to believe was among the highest of all crimes and misdemeanors.
Then there are the more systemic violations of law, such as myriad rule changes designed to reward friends (for-profit colleges, the coal and oil industries) and punish enemies (immigrants, gay people, the poor). More than 90 percent of these regulatory changes have not survived court challenges.
And there are all the times the administration has effectively stolen from taxpayers.
Recall the Cabinet secretaries who improperly flew on private jets or military aircraft when they were supposed to fly commercial. The suspicious military plane layovers at Trump’s Scottish resort. The exorbitant bill taxpayers footed for White House staffers’ Mar-a-Lago liquor consumption. The money diverted to border wall construction that Congress had appropriated for other uses.
On the other side of the ledger, there was the time the administration broke the law, according to the Government Accountability Office, by refusing to spend congressionally mandated appropriations on military aid to Ukraine.
Perhaps the administration’s calls for “law and order” would seem more credible if it started complying with the dozens of lawful subpoenas it has either blocked or disregarded. Or if it stopped arguing in court that the sitting president is immune to all prosecutions or investigations, from every level of government — including for the (hopefully always theoretical) crime of shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. Or if Trump ceased attacking judges who rule against him.
Or if he stopped removing the independent officials who have investigated him or his underlings for lawbreaking and impropriety.
Partly because many of the sources of accountability within government have been bullied, kneecapped or fired, much of the administration’s bad behavior has been uncovered by the media. So Trump has threatened to shut down or otherwise punish news organizations, too, in contravention of the First Amendment.
And what of others’ lawbreaking?
Well, despite Trump’s law-and-order rhetoric, expressing zero tolerance for vandals, he has pardoned right-wing zealots who destroyed government property. Also, war criminals. On Thursday, he dangled a pardon for his friend and former campaign aide Roger Stone, who was convicted on seven counts, including witness tampering.
That’s merely Trump’s treatment of lawbreakers past; he’s also letting lawbreakers present and future off the hook.
The administration is on track to set yet another record this year for fewest criminal prosecutions for both white-collar crimes (think: various kinds of fraud) and government regulatory crimes (money laundering, health and safety violations, nuclear waste violations), according to data from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.
These are hardly the only categories of crime the administration is ignoring. Day after day brings video evidence of law enforcement officials brutalizing peaceful protesters, journalists and bystanders. Trump, meanwhile, demands further escalation of force and decries only the misbehavior of looters and civilian vandals.
Shortly after officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets Monday at peaceful protesters and clergy outside the White House gates, Trump called for an “overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled,” neglecting to recognize the implicit paradox of that statement.
“I am your president of law and order,” Trump declared. He conveniently failed to specify which laws — and whose order.