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Contributor to the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog Orin Kerr wrote that the Department of Justice under Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would be “pretty damn frightening.”
During last week’s Republican National Convention, Trump called for more aggressive policing, threatened critics with lawsuits, and suggested that his opponents, such as Hillary Clinton, be jailed. Trump has also praised strongmen like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan for their ability to lead and to take control in times of crisis.
In a July 22 article, Kerr wrote that Trump’s “long-standing passions” of silencing dissenting voices and threatening lawsuits against critics convinced him that a Trump Department of Justice would be “pretty damn frightening.” Kerr argued Trump’s Justice Department would be “aggressive” against those who oppose and criticize it, citing Trump’s “expressed admiration" for dictators such as Putin, his dismissal of other country’s civil liberties violations, and Trump's response to “the ‘vicious’ and ‘horrible’ way that the Chinese government massacred pro-democracy protesters" in Tiananmen Sqaure. From the article:
Trump’s Nixonian turn to law and order raises an important question: What would a Trump Justice Department look like?
It would be pretty damn frightening, I think. Trump has two long-standing passions when it comes to law and law enforcement. His first passion is the suppression of protest and dissent. And his second passion is bringing lots of legal actions against his critics and threatening many more to get his way.
A few months ago, Trump expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin as “a strong leader” and “a powerful leader.” He has offered praise for Saddam Hussein. And just this week, when he was asked how he would respond to civil liberties violations by repressive regimes in other countries such as Turkey, Trump explained that he wouldn’t deal with that because the United States had its own mess to clean up. If you read the interview, Trump wasn’t saying that we had to to stop our own civil liberties violations before criticizing those of other governments. Rather, he was saying that the United States couldn’t criticize other countries because it needed to be “much more aggressive” at stopping the “riots” in the streets in places such as Ferguson and Baltimore. It would be “a wonderful thing,” Trump explained, if the response to the “riots” was more aggressive.
Trump also frequently threatens lawsuits as a way to silence his critics. If you want to focus on one example, this Politico piece on Trump’s efforts to intimidate a securities analyst who accurately predicted the failure of a Trump casino is a great read. And this week, a lot of people have seen the frivolous cease-and-desist letter that a Trump lawyer sent just this week to a Trump critic. Think about that. Right in the middle of the GOP convention, just a few days ago, Trump had his lawyers send a threat to bring a baseless lawsuit.
Now imagine what a President Trump would do with the executive power of the United States granted to him under Article II. Under the unitary executive, President Trump would control all of federal law enforcement.