I took more than a little bit of satisfaction from this week’s stunning decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that no president is above the law.
My satisfaction came in the form of two justices’ decision to side with the 7 to 2 majority that declared that Donald Trump cannot invoke presidential immunity no matter what, that a Manhattan, N.Y., prosecutor is entitled to obtain Trump’s financial records in a probe that could result in some serious criminal indictments.
Those two justices happen to Donald Trump’s two nominees to the highest court in America: Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Let’s presume Trump’s ignorance of the law and the Constitution for a moment and conclude that the president had hoped Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh would stand with him. I mean, Trump does demand loyalty even from members of an independent and co-equal branch of the federal government. The justices didn’t do as Trump no doubt wanted.
This gives me hope on at least one important matter. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh likely will sit in their high offices long after Trump leaves his office. Trump said he wanted to appoint rock-ribbed, true-blue conservatives to the federal judiciary, which is another way of saying he wants judges who will vote in his favor at all costs.
Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh saw the question arising from the Trump finances case differently. They interpreted the law with no regard to how it might affect Trump’s continuing refusal to release his financial records to prosecutors.
I cannot predict whether Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh will continue to demonstrate their judicial independence on future cases. The Supreme Court term has ended; justices will return to the bench in October, just ahead of the November presidential election.
I am hoping the election will deliver a new president who then will take over the appointment powers from a president who doesn’t grasp that the concept of an independent judiciary is inscribed in our nation’s governing document.
I am going to hope that the men who ended up on the court because Donald Trump nominated them will continue to exhibit the independence they showed in determining that no one — not even the president of the United States — is immune from criminal prosecution.