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Fri Dec 13, 2019, 08:02 PM

Trump & the USSC [View all]

“Richard Nixon is a no good, lying bastard. He can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time, and if he ever caught himself telling the truth, he'd lie just to keep his hand in. “
== Harry S. Truman

I've enjoyed reading some good discussions regarding the U.S. Supreme Court's plan to hear the appeal by Trump regarding his taxes. A number of people think the current USSC will decide in Trump's favor. I understand their thinking, of course, but think that the ruling will go against the president.

We are obviously at a strange time in history, but it is not unique. There have been tense and dangerous times, including since the Civil War. And while the USSC is imperfect, it has been helpful in maintaining constitutional rule in general. And it has not proven to be a firwall to protect corrupt presidents. Let's take a closer look.

The best example of a corrupt president attempting to build firewall is, of course, Richard Nixon. And the USSC was not his only attempt to protect himself. Like Trump, Nixon was recognized by even his closest associates as a pathological liar, so we can safely rule out his considering the Truth to protect him.

His first attempted firewall was named Spiro Agnew. Boomers remember that John Ehrlichman and Nixon privately laughing about Agnews being “the assassin's dilemma.” Of course, Tricky Dick wasn't the only corrupt member of the administration, and Agnew was forced to resign at an inopportune time for Nixon.

Thus, Nixon had to consider who would offer the best cover in order to allow him to serve out his second term. He picked Rep. Gerald Ford, a man who didn't appear to be either a leader or deep thinker. Yet, Nixon overlooked that Ford was considered a friendly, generally honest fellow by his peers. Thus, Ford would replace Nixon.

The second firewall Nixon attempted to create was an intense effort at major changes in foreign policy. Historians still debate who was more influential in this – President Nixon or his Secretary of War Crimes Henry Kissinger? But that isn't the first thing we think of when Nixon's name comes up in conversation.

The last firewall for Nixon was the USSC. Nixon had appointed four justices to the court before push came to shove. Again, Boomers remember that Nixon had nominated four others who were rejected. So it is fair to say that Nixon had not stacked the court in the exact manner he may have hoped to. There is no greater example than Warren Burger becoming Chief Justice.

In the USSC case United States v. Nixon was heard in 1974 (not to be confused with Nixon v. United States in 1993), Nixon believed he had a chance. In private, he told associates that he hoped for at least a split-decision, as he did not intend to follow a divided court's ruling if it went against him.

One of the Justices, William Rehnquist, recused himself. This was NOT because Nixon had appointed him, but rather, because he had served as an Assistant Attorney General in the administration. The other three Nixon appointees remained on the bench for the case.

Nixon's final firewall crumbled under the weight of the Truth. Perhaps no other thing was more offensive to the USSC than Nixon's attorney James St. Clair having previously argued to Judge John Sirica that, “The President wants me to argue that he is as powerful a monarch as Louis XIV, only four years at a time, and is not subject to the processes of any court in the land except the court of impeachment.”

That sounds familiar, although Trump has the gall to insist he isn't subject to the court of impeachment. We'll see how that works out for him.

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