The big news about Donald Trump’s mindset today is his promise/threat to take any impeachment of him to the Supreme Court.
That Trump remains so clueless is a great thing. It means he believes, however erroneously, that he has an ace in the hole, which makes far less likely that he will commit some huge atrocity out of desperation, at least until some major issue involving impeachment goes before the Court and he loses.
Trump’s self absorption and narcissism may be our saving grace. As long as he sees himself as invincible, he will continue to bumble along until someone or something can take him out.
There are several reasons why Trump’s promise/threat to take impeachment to the Supreme Court only demonstrates the vastness of his ignorance of U.S. history and law.
First, it seems reasonable to infer that Trump believes all of the Republicans will automatically take his side in any dispute. Anyone who knows much about the legal history of the United States knows that this is complete nonsense. We already have a very specific example that is not yet history. Not yet two years ago, the Supreme Court rejected the administration’s position on the question of its power to revoke the naturalization of new citizen.
The decision was unanimous, and Trump’s first appointee, Neil Gorsuch, voted with the majority, writing a separate opinion concurring in the judgment.
Trump’s two appointees, Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, should both recuse themselves from any decisions directly involving the Trump administration as a litigant. Being good “conservatives,” and thus having no ethical commitments at all, they may well not.
More importantly, which Trump certainly does not know, since his ignorance of law and legal procedures is vast, is that the Supreme Court has also decided, again unanimously, that it has no role to play in impeachment decisions of Congress. A federal judge who suffered impeachment and removal in 1989 challenged the procedure the Senate used to try him. In the 1993 case, Nixon v. United States (not that Nixon), 506 U.S. 224 (1993), the Court examined the grant in the Constitution of the “sole power to try all impeachments” to the Senate. The decision notes that the Constitution uses “sole” only twice, here, and in granting to the House of Representatives “the sole power of impeachment.”
It is true that the Court has the power to reverse its own decisions, but to do so in this case would be a nakedly partisan abuse of power, given the obvious logic of the earlier case and the fact that the decision was unanimous, with the notably conservative Chief Justice Rehnquist writing the opinion.
None of which matters to Trump, who remains, as ever, utterly clueless.