President Donald Trump made two remarkably authoritarian comments on Friday, first urging Congress to “get rid of judges” — specifically, immigration judges — and later demeaning the entire media as the “ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
But in a sign of how normalized the behavior of this president has become, neither remark amounted to much more than a blip on the news radar.
Trump made his comment about immigration judges during a question-and-answer session with reporters before departing the White House for a photo opportunity along the southern border in California.
“Congress has to act,” Trump said. “They have to get rid of catch and release, chain migration, visa lottery, they have to get rid of the whole asylum system because it doesn’t work, and frankly, we should get rid of judges. You can’t have a court case every time somebody steps foot on our ground.”
Trump calls on Congress to "get rid of the whole asylum system" because "it doesn't work."— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 5, 2019
"Frankly, we should get rid of judges," he adds. pic.twitter.com/5s8kI9mbHR
Trump’s comments marked the second time this week he has urged Congress “to get rid of judges” — a proposal that, thankfully, for those of us who value checks and balances, has little chance of gaining traction now that Democrats control the House.
The president, however, is not even trying to hide the fact he’d like to have the power to summarily deport migrants and asylum seekers, and has already demonstrated a willingness to try and seize emergency powers toward that end.
Later, while Air Force One was on its way to California, Trump posted a tweet in which he characterized the entire “press” as “truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
The press is doing everything within their power to fight the magnificence of the phrase, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! They can’t stand the fact that this Administration has done more than virtually any other Administration in its first 2yrs. They are truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 5, 2019
Trump’s tweet represented an escalation of his anti-press rhetoric. In the past, Trump had been careful to qualify his “enemy of the people” attacks as applying to “THE RIGGED AND CORRUPT MEDIA,” the “Fake News,” or only pertaining to “much of the Media.”
White House officials cited Trump’s hedging in his defense. After a Trump fan sent package bombs to a number of prominent Trump critics in the media and politics last fall, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump’s “enemy of the people” tweets by saying, “the president’s not referencing all media. He’s talking about the growing amount of fake news in the country. The president’s calling that out.”
But last month, Trump went a step further and called “The Mainstream Media” “the Enemy of the People.” Now, he’s using that attack against the entire press.
The president says a lot of ugly stuff, and much of it can safely be tuned out. Still, Trump’s comments on Friday highlight how unprecedented the current state of affairs is for our country. The president aspires to being an authoritarian ruler and isn’t really trying to hide it.
Regardless of whether you take Trump’s comments literally or merely seriously, they are disturbing. Judges are a vital part of the rule of law, and the free press is important in any democracy. Those values were mostly taken for granted in this country, but should not be any longer.