As mega-corporations join wealthy individuals in celebrating the passage of tax cuts for the rich, I’d like to take a moment to talk about another of President Trump’s favorite subjects — law and order.
Remember “law and order?” It was Trump’s refrain during his presidential campaign and in his earliest days in office. He repeated it often, even amid swirling accusations of Russian collusion. The phrase made his supporters feel secure when Trump said he would protect them from lawbreakers.
Of course, the lawbreakers Trump had in mind were black and brown people who had the unmitigated gall to demand that police stop killing us. But now that the lawbreakers are from Trump’s inner circle, the president has changed his tune.
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to charges connected to the Russian collusion investigation headed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his protege, Rick Gates, have also been charged by Mueller, who now has thousands of Trump transition team emails that were retrieved from government servers.
With those realities in mind, the man who told us we must support law enforcement at all costs now calls federal law-enforcement agencies the enemy. Using Twitter to slam the Justice Department, Trump complained that former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was not charged with lying to the FBI during a long-closed email investigation, while Flynn was charged with lying to the FBI during the current Russia investigation.
Never mind that the Trump administration has already said Flynn is a liar. Never mind that Flynn pleaded guilty to the charge. In Trump’s mind, it’s still about Clinton, because, after all, law and order applies only to other people. It never applies to Trump himself. Maybe that’s why he sent out this tweet earlier this month: “Many people in our Country are asking what the ‘Justice’ Department is going to do about the fact that totally Crooked Hillary, AFTER receiving a subpoena from the United States Congress, deleted and ‘acid washed’ 33,000 Emails? No justice.”
He also tweeted that the FBI is tainted and very dishonest because FBI agent Peter Strzok — formerly an agent involved in Mueller’s Russia investigation — was found to have sent anti-Trump text messages. Of course, the one-bad-apple-spoils-the-bunch logic doesn’t apply when black people complain that we are 2.5 times to be shot and killed by police than our white counterparts. Trump and his minions tell us that the police who shoot us are outliers. They tell us that they are individual actors who are not part of a system that is built on the assumption that black lives have less value. They tell us to lighten up.
Yet when Trump comes face to face with one biased agent in an investigation, it’s fine for him to use that agent’s behavior to paint the entire FBI as corrupt.That’s an odd turn of events from the man who pledged to support police no matter what the circumstance. It’s downright hypocritical for a guy who promised us law and order.
Trump is the same man who derided black protesters for taking to the streets after police shot unarmed people. You know, because we should support the police no matter what. Trump is the same man whose Justice Department refused to honor consent decrees with police departments that had been proven to engage in patterns of systemic discrimination against black people. You know, because we should always support the police. Trump is the same man who overturned President Obama’s ban on giving military surplus equipment to police departments because, in Trump’s mind, cops need that stuff to deal with those pesky brown taxpayers who keep demanding equal treatment. Why? You guessed it. Because we should always support the police.
As long as they’re shutting down black protests after police shootings, or deporting brown immigrants from Mexico, or upholding the ban on Muslim travelers, law-enforcement officers in Trump world should never be questioned. But woe to those who dare to hold Trump to the same law-and-order standard that the rest of us are expected to honor. Woe to those who dare to question whether the Trump presidency came into being through illegal collusion with a foreign enemy of the United States.
Here’s an idea: If the Trump administration is going to impose law and order on the rest of America, it should set the example it wants us to follow. I’m all for law and order. Let’s make sure we have it first in the White House.
Solomon Jones is a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News.