Terrorism

Donald Trump Vs. The Sixth Amendment

Just hours after New York bombing suspect was caught, Trump was already bemoaning how slowly the wheels of justice are turning.

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CRISTOBAL HERRERA/EPA/Newscom

Just hours after the suspected New York City dumpster bomber was caught by police in New Jersey, Donald Trump was already lamenting how slowly the wheels of justice were turning.

At a rally in Florida, Trump bemoaned the fact that America's justice system would include such kid-gloves-treatment as providing Ahmed Khan Rahami with a doctor (to treat the gunshot wound sustained during a shoot-out before his capture), a lawyer and a fair trial to establish whether Rahami is guilty of setting off a bomb that injured 25 people in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City on Saturday night.

Here's what Trump said, courtesy of CBS News' Sopan Deb:

Trump makes it sound like the government is giving Rahami a free weekend trip to the Mar-A-Lago resort, instead of providing him with the basic rights and protections given to all Americans who are charged with a crime.

"And on top of all that, he will be represented by an outstanding lawyer," says Trump, who apparently has inside information about the attorney who will defend Rahami in court (just like had information about Saturday night's explosion before anyone else did).

The Sixth Amendment doesn't make any promises about the caliber of the barrister that one might have, but the right to counsel is not a "sad situation." Along with the rest of the Sixth Amendment—which also enshrines the right to a fair trial, a jury and the chance to face one's accusers—it's one the foundations of a civilized society and a protection against a whole host of governmental abuses.

Trump lashes out like this, I suspect, because he lacks an actual understanding of national security issues (and his no interest in learning about them) and, like his Democratic opponent, doesn't have much regard for the constitutional limits of government in any setting. He also does it because it plays well with many of his supporters, who love strongman rhetoric and only support limits on government power when that power is aimed at them.

That's why he says things like "knock the hell out of them," when asked about his plan to deal with terrorism. Knock the hell out of who, exactly? Islamists in the Middle East? Muslims living in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and St. Cloud, Minnesota? It doesn't matter, of course, because the important thing is that he wants to knock the hell out of someone, and damn the constitutional consequences.

His direct assault on the Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer and a fair trial also contains a sideswipe at the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of a fair trial and due process (not to mention the Fourteenth Amendment's similar promise of equal treatment under law) when he calls for treating the alleged New York bomber as an enemy combatant. Rahami is not a foreign combatant (and he's not a refugee, either). He's a naturalized citizen of the United States, entitled to the same constitutional protections as you, me or Donald J. Trump.

The content of what Trump said is disturbing enough—though not unexpected for anyone who has been following the trajectory of his campaign—but the implications are what really frighten. If he's willing to suspend constitutional protections for suspected terrorists after an attack, it's only a matter of time before those same rules are applied in pursuit of stopping an attack. It starts with surveillance of Muslim communities, but where does it end? Trump's already shown a willingness to run headlong down that slippery slope, telling 60 Minutes in July that he doesn't regard constitutional limits on government power as legitimate if the nation itself is at stake.

Anyone who actually believes in constitutionally limited government likely has been turned off by Trump's attacks on the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Eighth Amendment, Tenth Amendment and 14th Amendment, not to mention his support for the nonexistent Article XII of the U.S. Constitution.

We'll know he's really just playing a game of unconstitutional bingo if he promises to quarter troops in American's homes—in the name of national security, of course.

The bottom line is that Trump likely won't alienate more voters by continuing his assault on the founding document of the country and the ideas that underpin a significant portion of Western Civilization, but that doesn't mean each additional volley deserves to go unnoticed.

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  1. “barrister”?

    Whycome Boomer talk like some limey cuck

    1. Netflix just added the third season of ‘Penny Dreadful’ and he’s been binge-watching it. Don’t judge.

    2. If it talks like a limey cuck, walks like a limey cuck…

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  2. We must destroy the constitution to save the constitution.

    1. Is that quote from Lincoln or FDR?

    1. The dad would say that; he was the boss of the family business, and obviously wants to divert people from putting the blame on the real person responsible for causing this episode of workplace violence.

  3. Trump’s War on Terror is very similar to Duterte’s War on Drugs. The appeal is literally the opportunity to shoot people walking down the street. In fact, most Philippinos support their president. However ultimately witch hunts like this will end about as well as can be expected with such things.

      1. Beautiful – thank you.

    1. There is a middle ground between police state and anarchy, and that is built on the power of shame. Racists in the US were, aside from the actual terrorists, not defeated with violence, but with shame. But right now, hatemongers within the Muslim community have more power to shame the people that stand against their evil than vice versa, by hiding behind everyone else and pretending that attacks on them are attacks on all Muslims and therefore acts of bigotry, rather than opposition to bigotry. They have that power because of the complicity of the Western elites.

      Either social changes will allow the general public to shame those Muslims who promote bigotry or homophobia or misogyny or otherwise set themselves violently at odds with the rest of society, or the pressure will build up until the whole thing explodes. About the only good coming out of that situation will be that both sides will see fit to eliminate the progressive fools who created the situation.

      1. Wow. I actually think you believe your own nonsense. Impressive!

        1. Which part is beyond belief?

          That rejection of bigotry, homophobia an misogyny by mainstream Muslims would result in changes in6 society?

          That shaming has been used in the west to alter people’s attitudes and behavior?

          Or that continued violence based on hatred will have negative consequences?

          Did I miss something? This sounds almost like observing that water is wet. What is the complaint?

        2. “Pay attention to meee!” explained the troll.

  4. Parsing his words, after he talks about all the lovely stuff the alleged bomber will be getting…

    He says we must have speedy yet fair trials.

    Which is what the system purports to provide now… which judges sometimes dismiss cases to enforce.

    Moreover, on its face a speedy yet fair trial is what is in everyone’s best interests except guilty people; for the wrongly accused, it gets them out from under their charges quickly (assuming the system works). For the community, it minimizes expense and provides a better deterrent effect. For the court system it provides more reliable outcomes (less time for witnesses to die; be silenced by intimidation etc).

    It’s really an example of Trump saying something that sounds at first blush like it’s really outrageous, and then on further reflection seems less outre. So he generates a lot of press, and when asked to expound, can point to the reasonable kernel.

    For all his faults, the guy is a genius at using a hostile media to his advantage.

    1. Yes, and I’d expand on that by saying that Trump is (OMG unprecedented!) deliberately vague in many cases, so as to preserve his freedom of maneuver.

      And of course even if he’s explicit, I distrust his willingness to do what he promised.

    2. I think you’re being awfully charitable, considering the third paragraph in which he advocates treating the guy as an “enemy combatant”…

      1. Not really. He says they are combatants. He says they are enemies. THen he says we must be “hard”.

        If called on that, all he needs to do is point to the previous paragraph and say, we can be hard in the context of providing fair trials.

        Again, it looks really outre. And, it leaves him wiggle room to do some horrible things. It certainly doesn’t fill one with confidence that he cares a whit about protecting people who are falsely accused from a kangaroo court.

        But… it isn’t a definitive statement that he *will* violate rights.

        It’s kind of like a microcosm of the birther flirtation he just finished.

        1. But… it isn’t a definitive statement that he *will* violate rights.

          I don’t need a definitive statement from politicians. But, I guess the average Joe might.

          1. Trump’s not a politician.

            People keep forgetting that.

            1. Trump’s not a politician.

              Disagree. He’s been a pretty quick study on the art of being vague to the point of being impossible to pin down, on leaving himself room to maneuver when called out on some of his shit so that he contradict himself without really contradicting himself, on telling his backers exactly what they want to hear whether he means a word of it or not, and last but not least promising lots moar “free shit” while not reforming existing “free shit” programs like SS & Medicare. In many ways he’s the quintessential politician.

    3. It also reads like he’s calling for an American citizen to be reclassified as a foreign combatant and tortured for information.

      1. Throwing out bait for Hillary to criticize and then he can call her out for being soft on terrorists, while he points to the previous paragraph and says, he obviously meant we can be hard in the context of providing fair trials. While Hillary obviously wants terrorists to run wild.

        1. Perhaps. It’s also consistent with his frequently expressed impatience for checks and balances and due process.

          It can be both.

  5. “Trump makes it sound like the government is giving Rahami a free weekend trip to the Mar-A-Lago resort, instead of providing him with the basic rights and protections given to all Americans who are charged with a crime.”

    It sounds like he’s saying the basic rights and protections given to criminals (or particular criminals at least) looks better than that of the average citizen.

    1. He’s also playing into people’s resentment of Obamacare, which has hurt their ability to pay for medical care. So they are paying higher premiums for crappy insurance policies that they can’t really afford to take advantage of, and this bad guy is actually getting medical treatment!

      That idea, that the govt gives better care to suspected terrorists than the average citizen, will rattle around in their skulls utterly unrefuted. And the media reaction to lambaste Trump for saying something so horrible will fertilize that seed of an idea to a nice bush of resentment.

      1. “That idea, that the govt gives better care to suspected terrorists than the average citizen, will rattle around in their skulls utterly unrefuted. And the media reaction to lambaste Trump for saying something so horrible will fertilize that seed of an idea to a nice bush of resentment.”

        Exactly. He does the same with illegal immigrants and the emergency room.

  6. Wait, which amendment did we still have going for us, again? Third? I’m losing track.

    1. Nope, the cops can quarter themselves in your property if they suspect there’s a criminal holed up next door (or down the street, etc)

    2. The 14th is going strong…. And the 16th. Whoa, that 16th…. Yeah, that one ain’t goin’ nowhere.

      Isn’t that the one that was supposed to go away after the war? Isn’t that like the only amendment that was passed with the explicit notion that it wouldn’t be put in practice other than wartime?

  7. Dallas has a bomb robot that Trump might find helpful in these situations…

  8. “Trump makes it sound like the government is giving Rahami a free weekend trip to the Mar-A-Lago resort, instead of providing him with the basic rights and protections given to all Americans who are charged with a crime.”

    I dont believe that is the case. It isnt what I took away.

    “This piece of shit will be treated a lot better by us than we would be by him.” is what I heard.

    1. Alternate translation – “This piece of shit will be treated a lot better than he deserves.”

      I dont recall him calling for a lynching. I don’t recall him referring to law abiding Americans as ‘deplorable’ or ‘irredeemable’.

      1. Hillary really hurt your feelings, huh?

        1. Feelings have nothing to do with it. A presidential candidate who stands a fair chance of winning thinks 25% of the country is irredeemable.

          You don’t find this troubling?

          1. I think 75+% of the country is irredeemable.

  9. This is just a bunch of silly handwringing. The guy is a populist. He gives voice to the thoughts of the rabble. Everyone has heard this sort of talk around the water cooler. He’s trying to take advantage of these private sentiments. It signifies nothing.

    He doesn’t make policy proposals. Particularly not in this sort of meandering off-the-cuff remark. He bloviates. That is all.

    Trump really makes it hard to criticize him on substance, because he spins off massive piles of nonsense, rarely saying anything about his real policies.

    In that he is kind of the flip side of Obama’s candidacy. Obama always took both sides of every issue, without ever actually saying anything. But everything was wrapped in well-prepared lofty rhetoric. “I mean, times are tough. And when times are tough, we’ve gotta do what you would do with your family. We’ve got to tighten our belt. But at the same time, we have to invest in our future!”

    Trump does the same thing using the exact opposite tactic. He says what almost amounts to a word salad, jumbling random thoughts of the common man around in his strange rhetorical form, allowing anyone who is so inclined to pick out tidbits that they find appealing.

    People really have lost their minds this go around. Every nightly talk show lampooned Trump for lying about Hillary’s campaign being the genesis of the birther movement. This isn’t news, folks. This has been known for 8 years. But they seized on it with rabid furiousity

  10. I seem to recall that Dzokar Tsarnaev, the Boston marathon Bomber, recieved outstanding hospital care for his wounds, a first rate defense team to ensure that his rights were preserved, was found guilty, and is now waiting in federal Prison for his date with a lethal injection. It’s called rule of law!

  11. Reading Trump’s statement, he’s arguing that Ahmed Khan Rahami should be treated as an unlawful enemy combatant rather than as a civilian criminal.

    I’m not sure I disagree with him.

    We need to see more evidence.

    What Rahami did very well might constitute a war crime. Enemy combatants are treated differently by treaty.

    Trump isn’t being irrational or obnoxious here.

    If anything, an overreaction to Trump bringing up relevant questions might be evidence of TDS.

    1. A war crime? Seriously? Jesus F. Christ.

      1. Deliberate targeting of civilians is a war crime. If he is an agent of the Islamic State in the Levant, then he would be guilty of war crimes.

        from the Wikipedia:

        Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torture, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, perfidy, rape, using child soldiers, pillaging, declaring that no quarter will be given, and using weapons that cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.[2]

        The bombings and attempted bombings check several of those boxes. If he is a state actor, he’s guilty of war crimes.

      2. Yes, intentionally killing civilians is a war crime, and the Unites States is in active hostilities with both Al Qaeda and ISIS under the auspices of the AUMF.

        Surely, attempting to murder dozens of American civilians on behalf of or under the instructions of an organization with which we are formally at war isn’t just like a bank robbery, is it?

        Under those circumstances, why should he be treated like someone who got busted on a DUI?

        1. And more to the point than whether or not the United States has declared war, ISIS/ISIL has definitely declared war on the United States (among others).

          So if he is their representative, he’s a war criminal. Not that those guys care about that. They set people on fire for not being Muslim enough. War crimes don’t seem to be anywhere on their priority list.

          1. If our government were not at war with ISIS, then our government might be excused for acting differently.

            We are formally at war with ISIS, so the government charging enemy combatants with war crimes when they commit war crimes isn’t out of order.

    1. So is Rahami paying his own legal fees? If not, is he getting the same inept public defender that D’Shizzle gets in his trial for carrying an ounce of weed?

      1. “the same inept public defender”

        Something tells me when people actually care about your trial, they don’t break out the inept dude to play defense. Ya know, give the illusion to the people watching that state-appointed defense attorneys are actually good.

  12. “It starts with surveillance of Muslim communities”

    Why are we all back to pretending this isn’t already happening??

  13. AT some point he is going to walk on stage, thank everyone for appearing in his new reality show, and walk off right?

    Or he will be unmasked as being paid by the Clintons to make HRC look good, right?

    Or I will wake up. I am going to wake up now and laugh at the bad dream. Wake up. I SAID WAKE UP!

    1. I’m still banking on number 3. Any day now I’m going to wake up next to Suzanne Pleshette.

    2. I don’t know if this is true, but on Houdini and Doyle, Harry was wondering if visions of his recently deceased mother were real. Someone (I’m not sure who) told Houdini that people cannot read in their dreams. So, he took to carrying a slip of paper with a few words on it, and then the slip of paper would become incorporated in his dream. When he tried to read it, he couldn’t, so he knew that he was dreaming.

      Since you are reading articles and comments, I don’t think number 3 is a realistic option.

  14. I heard that Trump drinks puppy blood for breakfast, buys orphans for their slave labor, and he picked Ginger over Mary Ann. The later of which is a travesty.

    1. Ok, that’s a bridge too far. No sane person could pick Ginger over Mary Ann.

  15. Seems to me he asked for the constitutional requirement of a speedy and fair trial. Why you cryin’? Then he wants to use lawful methods of interrogation. OMG! How could he? He is all for giving the guilty a harsh sentance. OMG! No island paradise? No religously sanctioned meals? No early release? Bully!
    You fellas at Reason need to go get your nails done. Obviously you’re slighly off kilter with bad nails.

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