By violating US judicial norms, Donald Trump might be putting himself and China in a lose-lose situation
- Trump’s penchant for directing judicial outcomes is making the US legal system more like China’s. But if a president emboldened by his impeachment acquittal continues such actions, his re-election campaign might be derailed
Asserting that Donald Trump feels a strong kinship with strongmen like Chinese President Xi Jinping used to be something of a rhetorical exercise.
The assertion would be made to jolt those closest to Trump and also, with an overall sense of allegiance to the default positions of traditional American foreign policy intact, to check the US president’s royalist impulses.
Why? Claims about American exceptionalism that we hear from Washington and on campaign trails throughout the country are predicated on the expectation that American justice is both transparent and free of political influence.
The ruling Republican Party can abide by cuts in taxes and social benefits, but giving the US president carte blanche to direct judicial outcomes is a bridge too far.
And some of the loudest voices in the party, including senators Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley, routinely savage the Chinese government for its authoritarian structure, including arbitrary and opaque justice.
So in this respect, Trump’s public comments and the Republican Party’s acquiescence have bumped the US Justice Department into closer alignment with Beijing’s model.
But even in Xi’s era, despite pundits’ claims that China is reverting to Cultural Revolution-era thinking, Beijing has, at least in one way, moved closer to Washington’s judicial norms.
While China has carved out a largely apolitical space to adjudicate these matters, Trump has done the opposite. In his mind, every matter before a judge in the US is potentially political, and he is therefore the final arbiter of who faces judicial scrutiny and to what degree.
Meanwhile, from a regulatory standpoint, the Trump-friendly fossil fuel industry has gone from strength to strength under the his administration.
Trump’s wish to bring the American justice system more in line with his world view has made his party more uncomfortable than at any time since he assumed office because what he wants for the Justice Department is not business friendly.
Robert Delaney is the Post’s North America bureau chief