What happens when government–the primary mechanism through which humans engage in collective action– is no longer perceived as legitimate?
Two headlines from last Wednesday’s Guardian suggest that we may soon be able to answer that question.
First, the Supreme Court. It’s Clarence Thomas–again.
Several lawyers who have had business before the supreme court, including one who successfully argued to end race-conscious admissions at universities, paid money to a top aide to Justice Clarence Thomas, according to the aide’s Venmo transactions. The payments appear to have been made in connection to Thomas’s 2019 Christmas party.
The payments to Rajan Vasisht, who served as Thomas’s aide from July 2019 to July 2021, seem to underscore the close ties between Thomas, who is embroiled in ethics scandals following a series of revelations about his relationship with a wealthy billionaire donor, and certain senior Washington lawyers who argue cases and have other business in front of the justice.
Despite the fact that the payments all referenced Thomas’ Christmas party, the article says it remains unclear what the funds were actually for. Most of the former clerks who made the payments are currently lawyers working for large and prominent law firms–firms with substantial business before the Court. None of them responded to the Guardian’s requests for clarification.
Richard Painter, who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W Bush administration and has been a vocal critic of the role of dark money in politics, said is was “not appropriate” for former Thomas law clerks who were established in private practice to – in effect – send money to the supreme court via Venmo.
“There is no excuse for it. Thomas could invite them to his Christmas party and he could attend Christmas parties, as long as they are not discussing any cases. His Christmas party should not be paid for by lawyers,” Painter said. “A federal government employee collecting money from lawyers for any reason.”
Gee, it must be nice to be a Supreme Court Justice. As a steady stream of reports has confirmed, if you are a Justice like Clarence Thomas, you don’t have to pay for anything–your mother’s home, fancy trips, memberships in exclusive clubs, your nephew’s tuition, your wedding reception…evidently, not even your Christmas Parties.
The steady drip, drip, drip of disclosures–especially those about Thomas and Alito– have deeply damaged the legitimacy of the highest Court in the land. But it isn’t only the Court.
The headline and sub-head tell the tale: “Former House Republicans and DoJ veterans lambast efforts to curb FBI and justice department”.”Current GOP members ‘disconnected from reality’ while working toward weakening democracy and the justice system.”
As House Republicans with close ties to Donald Trump widen investigations into alleged bias at the Department of Justice and the FBI – while also mulling impeachments of top Biden administration officials – justice department veterans and ex-GOP members are voicing concern that these efforts weaken the justice system and democracy.
Led by the judiciary committee chairman, Jim Jordan, the far-right House Freedom Caucus members have helped spearhead inquiries into the alleged “weaponization of the federal government” with significant backing from the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, and other GOP leaders.
Freedom Caucus members have issued wild and irresponsible threats to impeach pretty much everyone connected with the justice system, starting with Merrick Garland; they’ve threatened budget cuts and/or the freezing of some officials’ salaries to penalize perceived biases against Trump, even though such moves would seem to undercut traditional GOP “law and order” rhetoric and policies.
That was “traditional” rhetoric at a time the GOP was a political party rather than a lunatic cult. Several former Republican Representatives clearly understand the devolution.
“Jordan is not only accepting Trump’s falsehoods but actively promoting them. It’s an alternative reality. Members are doing it for re-election purposes, fundraising and power,” said the former Michigan Republican representative Dave Trott.
Trott added that he thought “what the Trump crazies have promoted is undermining our democracy and confidence in our judicial system and justice department. Now they want to defund justice and the FBI because they know it will further energize the far-right base.”…
Looking ahead, House GOP alumni warn that the Republican investigations may appeal to Trump and his base, but alienate moderate voters.
“I’m sure Trump is thrilled by it all,” the former Republican Pennsylvania representative Charlie Dent said. “I bet he’s talking to his allies regularly. Trump is looking at this from his sense of personal grievance.”
Corruption on the Court. Keystone Kops running the House of Representatives. A political party turned into a grievance cult by a dangerously mentally-ill ex-President.
We’re in a world of hurt.