Judge Chutkan: Presidents Are Not Kings. Not Even Trump.
Plus: "Rape is rape."
You probably have not been thinking about Madison Cawthorn lately. And really nobody has, since the one-term congressman was dumped into the remainder bin of history’s misfit toys.
George Santos is about to join him there, where he can ponder his legacy as an asterisk on a parenthesis in a footnote — as one of only six congressmen expelled from that august body. (He’s also likely headed to prison, which could hamper his bid to become a Newsmax host.)
If history does remember him, however, it will be as a particularly outré archetype of our political moment. Notes former congressman Adam Kinzinger:
It seems telling. A liar, fraud, money launderer, indicted, hanger on-er is expelled from Congress, while a liar, fraud, money launderer, indicted, hanger on-er is leading the GOP race for President. This conundrum is not a conundrum at all. In fact, it’s a feature of today’s GOP.
The Bulwark is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Adam Kinzinger: Why Trump 2.0 Will Be Worse
Trump wants to weaponize the office of the presidency, and who would stop him? Basing our constitutional norms on the honor system is a built-in weakness. Plus, the Democrats have a Hamas problem. Adam Kinzinger joined me for the weekend pod.
You can listen to the whole thing here. Or watch us on YouTube.
Judge Chutkan: A reminder that presidents are not kings
ON FRIDAY, THE U.S. COURT OF APPEALS for the D.C. Circuit unanimously rejected Donald Trump’s claim that he is absolutely immune from any lawsuits relating to the 2020 election-stealing efforts and the January 6, 2021 insurrection. The ruling came down in three consolidated civil cases brought by a handful of Democrats in Congress and Capitol police officers who were at the U.S. Capitol that day…. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan also ruled on Friday that Trump has no blanket immunity from prosecution in the January 6th criminal case against him, either.
Some highlights from Judge Chutkan’s ruling:
“Defendant’s four-year service as Commander in Chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens. “No man in this country,” not even the former President, “is so high that he is above the law.”
She also cited the president’s oath of office: "By definition, the President’s duty to 'take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed' does not grant special latitude to violate them."
Quoting Justice Felix Frankfurter: "If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny."
Really, do yourself a favor and read the whole thing:
As the Supreme Court has stated, that principle must govern citizens and officials alike: No officer of the law may set that law at defiance with impunity. All the officers of the government, from the highest to the lowest, are creatures of the law, and are bound to obey it. It is the only supreme power in our system of government, and every man who by accepting office participates in its functions is only the more strongly bound to submit to that supremacy, and to observe the limitations which it imposes upon the exercise of the authority which it gives.
In her opinion, Chutkan cited the example of former presidents, including the nation’s first:
Perhaps no one understood the compelling public interest in the rule of law better than our first former President, George Washington. His decision to voluntarily leave office after two terms marked an extraordinary divergence from nearly every world leader who had preceded him, ushering in the sacred American tradition of peacefully transitioning Presidential power—a tradition that stood unbroken until January 6, 2021.
In announcing that decision, however, Washington counseled that the newfound American independence carried with it a responsibility.
“The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”
He issued a sober warning: “All obstructions to the execution of the laws,” including group arrangements to “counteract” the “regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle.” In Washington’s view, such obstructions would prove “fatal” to the Republic, as “cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Chuktan then turned back to the case before her:
In this case, Defendant is charged with attempting to usurp the reins of government as Washington forewarned: The Government alleges that, with the help of political associates, he “spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he had actually won,” and “pursued unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results,” all because he “was determined to remain in power.”
The Texas GOP rejects ban on associating with Nazi sympathizers
This is NOT a parody. Via The Texas Tribune:
Two months after a prominent conservative activist and fundraiser was caught hosting white supremacist Nick Fuentes, leaders of the Republican Party of Texas have voted against barring the party from associating with known Nazi sympathizers and Holocaust deniers.
In a 32-29 vote on Saturday, members of the Texas GOP’s executive committee stripped a pro-Israel resolution of a clause that would have included the ban— delivering a major blow to a faction that has called for the party to confront its ties to groups that have recently employed, elevated or associated with outspoken white supremacists or antisemitic figures.
“Rape is rape”
This shouldn’t have to be said, but apparently it does. And it seems to be hard for some folks who are normally regarded as “progressive.”
On Friday — after 57 days — “UN Women” finally got around to condemning Hamas’s use of rape as a weapon of terror against Israeli women.
The women’s rights organization made a similar statement in late November condemning the Hamas attacks, but quickly deleted the post.
International women’s organizations have been roundly criticized by Jewish, Israeli, and other groups since October 7 for their relative silence on the brutality faced by Israeli women during Hamas’s rampage in southern Israel.
On Saturday, after the UN Women statement condemning Hamas, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen took to X to slam the UN women’s organization.
“The conduct of UN Women, as well as the UN Secretary-General and other UN agencies, since the October 7 massacre, is disgraceful.,” Cohen wrote. “UN Women’s message is weak and late when it comes after almost two months of silence and ignoring the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and sexual crimes committed by the terrorist organization, Hamas.”
The statement came only after a bipartisan group of lawmakers urged the UN to condemn Hamas’s October 7 attack.
Protestors gather at the offices of the United Nations Women on November 27, 2023 in New York City. (MICHAEL M. SANTIAGO/GETTY IMAGES)
The UN’s long silence has, unfortunately, been mirrored by many of the groups who had been the most vocal about sexual assault and abuse in other contexts.
Over at Slate, a group of progressive writers — including Dahlia Lithwick, Mimi Rocah, Jennifer Taub, Tamar Zepper, Joyce Vance, and Julie Zebrak called out their fellow feminists:
Of all of the horrors coming out of the Israel-Hamas conflict, among the most horrible are the barbaric murders, rapes, sexual assaults, and kidnappings of women and young girls in Israel during the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. And yet, deepening this distressing event, there has been a disheartening silence about, or worse, denial of these evils; reticence from the voices here at home in the U.S. who have, in the recent past, embraced other women who needed their support. Israeli and Jewish women find themselves isolated.
For the past three decades, women have stood up for other women. When our sisters’ bodies and dignity were targeted and violated, women and allies of all ages and backgrounds organized, supported, and spoke out.
Except somehow, not this time.
Gaby Hinsliff made a similar point in the Guardian: “Whatever your view of the Israel-Hamas war, rape is rape. To trivialise it is to diminish ourselves.”
Only in this conflict have some normally proud progressives seemingly gone out of their way to show they don’t always #BelieveWomen, after all.
The response to Jews posting about the issue on X this week has ranged from casual whataboutery to a gruesome variant of the “pics or it didn’t happen” school of online scepticism, questioning why there aren’t any actual live rapes visible on that grisly compilation of atrocities the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are currently screening to select opinion formers. (The film, compiled from security camera footage and terrorists’ GoPros, includes only material that survivors’ families have expressly consented to publishing – not everyone wants their child’s last moments made public – and the IDF says some scenes judged too distressing or intrusive were excluded.)
Evidently the stomach-turning images millions have already seen online – a dead woman, lying with her skirt pulled above her waist and no underwear on; the young woman bundled out of a truck in the Gaza Strip, the crotch of her jogging bottoms soaked in blood – aren’t enough for some.
Over the weekend, CNN’s Dana Bash had a tense confrontation with Progressive Caucus chair Pramila Jayapal on the question of Hamas’s sexual violence.
The CNN anchor called it “remarkable” that the subject hasn’t been getting more attention, adding “I’ve seen a lot of Progressive women. Generally speaking, they’re quick to defend women’s rights and to speak out against using rape as a weapon of war, but downright silent on what we saw on October 7th and what might be happening inside Gaza right now to these hostages.”
“Why is that?” Bash asked Jayapal.
“I don’t know that that’s true,” Jayapal said. “I think we always talk about the impact of war on women in particular.”
After some verbal dodging, Bash pressed Jayapal for a more direct answer:
“With respect,” Bash interjected. “I was just asking about the women, and you turned it back to Israel. I’m asking you about Hamas…”
“I already answered your question, Dana,” Jayapal countered. “I said it’s horrific, and I think that rape is horrific. Sexual assault is horrific. I think that it happens in war situations. Terrorist organizations like Hamas obviously are using these as tools. However, I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians. Fifteen thousand Palestinians have been killed in Israeli air strikes, three-quarters of whom are women and children…”
“And it’s horrible,” said Bash, “but you don’t see Israeli soldiers raping Palestinian women.
Bash’s fellow CNN anchor Bianna Golodryga praised Bash’s interview: “Good on @DanaBashCNN to continually press @RepJayapal on condemning Hamas’ horrific sexual violence against Israeli women. Jayapal repeatedly said she spoke out specifically against the sexual violence but has apparently not done so, at least on X.”
Other progressives also dunked on Jayapal’s attempts to “balance” her reaction.
Here’s Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, Christine: