Whenever I read anything that is suspiciously pro-Donald Trump, I am reminded of the final line of a 2015 “medical evaluation” Trump commissioned prior to his election as president. “If elected,” it concluded, “Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” This “evaluation” was made by Dr Harold Bornstein, a gastroenterologist from Lenox Hospital in New York.
If the final line seems a bit inelegant and heavy — it sounds at first a little like a contrived first draft written by Yoda — it can be explained by the fact that the good doctor later confessed that the whole “evaluation” was dictated verbatim to him by Trump himself.
Trump has since become, if anything, more verbose. I submit for your consideration, brothers and sisters, a 35 page brief filed by Trump’s ambulance-chasing cafeteria lawyers to the US Court of Appeals. The substance of the whole thing can be found in a paragraph or two asking the court to bar judge Tanya Chutkan from reinstating Trump’s gag order. Once that unpleasantness is dispensed with it gets on to the real business of the brief: a long, tedious, acclamation of Donald Trump’s virtues.
I hasten to add that I don’t think Trump dictated it. It’s too coherent for the incoherent Trump. But I do believe he supervised it. What comes out is bizarre, heavy and unwieldy. “The gag order,” it says, “violates the rights of tens of millions of Americans to receive President Trump’s speech.”
I don’t know how much those lawyers were paid for this nonsense. One is reminded of the days when Leo Tolstoy’s decision about the length of “War and Peace” was heavily influenced by the fact that he was paid by the word. But Trump’s lawyers must have known two things. First, that the appeal would never work. Second, that the whole thing is transcendentally awful. If it wasn’t embarrassing to write this crap then there’s something deeply wrong with his lawyers, and I do not discount that as a possibility.
In any case the stay was granted. But it remains nothing more than a bad poem to Trump and a monument to billable hours, which is probably what it set out to be anyway, as far the lawyers were concerned.
The point about Trump’s constant objection to his various gag orders — how many? I’m losing track of them — is that he wants to go right on threatening witnesses, disparaging judges and attorneys general, doxxing court clerks and generally menacing anyone who dares to bring any charges against his magnificent self. Trump believes his critics should be given the death penalty while he should be allowed to commit crimes at will. Indeed, the very act of referring to Trump’s crimes as crimes ought to be a capital crime, according to Trump.
That, of course, is not a first amendment right. This pervasive (and perverse) notion that the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States grants the right of any American citizen to say anything about anyone simply isn’t so. There are legal limits to speech. Why is that even a surprise to anyone? That should be taught more often than the virtues of free expression because there are too many wrongheaded notions about the First Amendment.
Thanks in part to the bizarre SCOTUS finding for the landmark case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 US 310, a case that deliberately conflates bribery with free speech, many citizens are understandably confused on this issue. It doesn’t help that talking heads on Fox News help them continue to be confused, or that the mainstream media doesn’t object to this common claptrap enough, but Donald Trump’s freedom of speech is not being violated by gag orders.
No one has the right to threaten the lives of witnesses. Americans are not being deprived of anything of value when Donald Trump is barred from threatening, intimidating or menacing them. He should be permanently gagged, he should not be allowed to talk about any aspect of the cases arrayed against him, and penalties for violations of those gag orders ought to be swift and terrible. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.