BOSTON (CBS) – President Trump might have benefited from that ancient advice in the book of Galatians – “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” – if he had ever chosen to read the Bible instead of just using it as a prop. But he didn’t, and now, in the latest example of Trump digging his own grave, the U.S. Supreme Court has overwhelmingly repudiated his habitual indifference to law and custom.
As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the 7-2 majority (including Trump appointees Gorsuch and Kavanaugh) allowing prosecutors access to years of Trump’s financial records and taxes, “no citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.”
It won’t be happening before election day, but this means Trump will eventually have to face the consequences for whatever wrongdoing may be documented in his tax returns – you know, the ones he repeatedly maintained he was glad to release if only he wasn’t precluded from doing so by IRS audits, when in fact he wasn’t precluded from doing so.
Where did Trump get the idea that was above the law? Just another part of his inheritance from his corrupt father, sleazy family lawyer Roy Cohn, and years of success bullying and buying his way around all sorts of rules, written and otherwise.
And it’s little wonder that all those bad habits were reinforced by Trump’s upset 2016 victory. “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,” Trump famously said as he rose in the polls during a campaign where he also learned he could insult war heroes, race-bait, traffic in grotesque misogyny and openly solicit support from foreign U.S. adversaries without suffering political consequences.
That led to a popular concept – that Trump was the ultimate Teflon politician, endowed with a secret sauce that made him impervious to backlash.
From the earliest days of the Trump presidency, we saw significant, effective pushback, from the co-equal branches of government and from the streets.
The 2018 midterm elections showed how – at least among some major voter groups such as women and suburbanites – a potent political backlash was building.
And while it took the catastrophes of the pandemic and the George Floyd murder and aftermath to trigger it, we now see that his enabling of and excuse-making for death could in fact prompt significant numbers of “his” voters to bail on him.
Trump’s contempt for the legal and institutional constraints our system imposes on the presidency and the social and political conventions that have historically moderated presidential behavior have been, for his most ardent admirers, a feature, not a bug.
But his relentless sowing of the discord that contempt inevitably sparked has yielded a bitter harvest of sky-high disapproval and broad mistrust.
And 2020 is turning out to be reaping time.