Pence Announces Trump Power-Grab To Restrict Courts Nationwide


The Trump team has little interest in letting outside interference or even perspectives affect their agenda. That’s not a stretch — in a recent speech to the staunchly conservative Federalist Society, Vice President Mike Pence announced disturbing plans to try and get the U.S. Supreme Court to block lower courts from ever issuing nationwide injunctions against policy. Such measures have been used against a wide variety of at best legally questionable Trump-ian policies, including his Muslim-targeting travel ban, his ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. Armed Services, and so on.

Now, Pence says:

‘The Supreme Court of the United States must clarify that district judges can decide no more than the cases before them. A Supreme Court justice has to convince four of his colleagues to uphold a nationwide injunction — but a single district court judge can issue one, effectively preventing the duly-elected president of the United States from fulfilling his constitutional duties. This judicial obstruction is unprecedented.’

To that end, Pence says, the Trump administration will be seeking cases in which they can get the argument to the Supreme Court. They’ve tried to do so before in the context of the Muslim-targeting travel ban, but a version of that provision that actually made it to the court was upheld in its entirety and the argument was dropped.

Still, the president has kept the argument against the court system going, and now Pence is essentially calling for the president to have straightforwardly dictatorial power that can’t be challenged by most courts, period. The idea is that any judge who dares oppose the administration is acting politically and not, you know, following the law. Trump has often — wrongly — accused the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals of having a demonstrable liberal bent when in reality, the rate at which its rulings are overturned by a higher-up isn’t that different from comparable jurisdictions.

At a Wednesday rally in Florida, Trump presented the line all the same:

‘Activist judges who issue nationwide injunctions based on their personal beliefs undermine democracy and threaten the rule of law.’

Ironically, signaling how the issue might play out if it does come before the nation’s highest court, current Chief Justice John Paul Stevens has explicitly denounced the president’s rhetoric about the judicial system as supposedly out to get him. In a rare entrance to the political field, Stevens insisted that the U.S. doesn’t have “Obama judges” or “Trump judges” — but the president kept the argument going anyway, insisting Stevens was wrong. They’re unlikely at best to accept an argument that can fit in a tweet as justification for changing nationwide policy, however.

The issue fits into a broader picture of the president repeatedly attacking the justice system including outside of the courts. He and his allies have consistently maintained that the Russia scandal only ever emerged because interests inside the FBI and Justice Department were out to get Trump, an argument that relies on cherrypicking and completely ignores the multiple prongs of evidence against the Trump team and the multiple levels of oversight of the scandal and concurrent probe in the first place.

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