The American Bar Association Is The Latest Victim Of Trump’s Revenge

The American Bar Association (ABA) gave Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, its highest rating. In return, Trump banned the organization from reviewing future nominees for federal judgeships. 

What gives? That seems like a nonsensical response after the ABA report gave Republicans a huge helping hand in garnering support for Gorsuch.

A look at the history between Trump and the ABA, however, indicates that the chief executive is once more exacting his notorious revenge. Last fall, before the election, a group of lawyers from the organization commissioned a report on Trump and his history of litigation. The report stated:

Donald J. Trump is a libel bully. Like most bullies, he’s also a loser, to borrow from Trump’s vocabulary.

Trump and his companies have been involved in a mind-boggling 4,000 lawsuits over the last 30 years and sent countless threatening cease-and-desist letters to journalists and critics.

The ABA refused to publish the assessment, reportedly out of fear of being sued by Mr. Trump. Nevertheless, word got out and the controversy blew up. Apparently, the group didn’t trust the report’s conclusion that Trump rarely won his lawsuits. He just used them to bully others over their free speech rights when he didn’t like what was being said about him. The report further stated:

Trump’s lawsuits are worthy of a comedy routine.

But chalk one up for Trump. Neither he nor the ABA was laughing as the situation unfolded. Eventually, the Media Law Resource Center posted the report on its website — but the lawyers’ organization wasn’t done tangling with the man who would become president.

Trump’s executive order to restrict immigration from Muslim countries set up another round of conflict. The ABA immediately called for him to rescind the order. But, of course, that didn’t happen.

Instead, U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle blocked the order, sending Trump into a Twitter rage. He railed against the judge in personal attacks, calling Robart a ‘so-called’ judge and labeling the order ‘outrageous’ and ‘ridiculous.’

This time, American Bar Association President Linda Klein stepped into the ring, and she came out swinging. At an ABA meeting, she said from the podium:

Let me tell you what the most important border is: It’s our Constitution and the rule of law it embodies. We as lawyers are called upon to protect it. Make no mistake: Personal attacks on judges are attacks on our Constitution. 

Klein emphasized the ABA’s role in keeping the judiciary free of political influence. She also insisted that her organization would continue to vet nominees to federal judgeships, saying:

Let us be clear: The independence of the judiciary is not up for negotiation. As lawyers, we are trained to be thinkers and leaders. … So lawyers, let’s lead. Let’s lead by promoting and protecting the rule of law.

That was then. This is now. On Friday, the association received notice from the White House that its services were no longer required. ‘You’re fired,’ in other words.

In a statement following Trump’s action,  the group put its role in historical perspective:

President Eisenhower first invited the ABA into the process in 1953. Since then, with the exception of the George W. Bush administration, the ABA has been asked by every administration to conduct pre-nomination evaluations of the professional qualification of prospective nominees.

But now the exhaustive vetting process that the group of lawyers has provided for 64 years is over — at least as far as the administration is concerned. Trump will no longer give them an advance list of nominees.

Appalled, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asserted the need for the Senate Judiciary Committee to continue using the reports during hearings on nominees for federal judgeships. Klein quickly backed her up, saying: 

[The ABA] will continue to provide its objective evaluations to the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of the judicial confirmation process.

 Who will be advising Trump? The usual suspects who surround him in the White House, no doubt — none of whom seem to be the sharpest of legal minds or even very politically astute. He has once again isolated himself in a class almost by himself.

There’s always George W., of course, who also dissed the ABA — but even he might balk at being put in the same category as Donald Trump. After all, he was heard to call Trump’s inaugural address “some weird shit.”

What part of this administration couldn’t be characterized the same way?

Feature photo, Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore on flickr.

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Deborah Montesano

Deborah Montesano is a longtime political activist and blogger. She learned to fight against impossible odds by living for years in Arizona, but recently relocated to the more progressive-friendly city of Portland, Oregon. Find her on Facebook at facebook.com/thepoliticali/ or on Twitter @thepoliticali_1.

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