University of Pennsylvania professor Marci A. Hamilton argues that the United States faces two significant threats: Donald Trump, whom she describes as a fascist with dictatorial aspirations, and a right-wing evangelical-fundamentalist Catholic axis intent on a theocratic takeover, both of which undermine democracy and civil rights. Professor Hamilton emphasizes that these threats are bolstered by historical distortions and a disregard for the Constitution, yet she expresses hope in the public’s rejection of this authoritarianism, as evidenced by reactions to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and the preservation of abortion rights in conservative states.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat argues that former President Donald Trump’s approach in his legal battles mirrors the tactics used by the defendants in the Chicago Seven trial, aiming to turn his trials into political theater and mock the legal process. Professor Sarat argues that Trump’s behavior, including his motion to televise proceedings and accusations against the legal system, are his attempt to subvert judicial proceedings and portray himself as a victim of political persecution, similar to the disruptive and publicity-focused strategies of the Chicago Seven.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argues that former President Trump’s courtroom behavior in the civil fraud case in New York, marked by attacks on judicial figures and the legal process, indicates his anticipation of a lost case and a strategy focused on delay through appeals and political posturing to his base. Furthermore, Mr. Aftergut suggests that Trump’s tactics on the stand, which include deflecting blame and refusing to answer questions directly, aim to serve his political narrative rather than address the substantive legal claims against him.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on recent polls suggesting a competitive potential election between former President Trump and current President Biden, with Trump leading in several key battleground states. Professor Sarat warns of the risk to American democracy, suggesting that President Biden needs to effectively counteract former President Trump’s narrative to emerge as the genuine defender of democratic values.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat describes a series of recent setbacks for former President Donald Trump, both legally and politically: key legal figures like Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro pled guilty and agreed to be cooperating witnesses in a Georgia RICO case against him, while his political endorsements and foreign policy comments have been met with criticism from both Republican opponents and his own base. Professor Sarat concludes that this bad week for Trump was a good week for democracy and the rule of law in the United States.
Criminal defense attorney Jon May critiques an argument by Harvard Professor Emeritus Laurence Tribe and Judge Michael Luttig that Donald Trump is automatically disqualified from running for President again under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, even without a conviction for insurrection. Mr. May contends that such a reading of Section 3 could lead to political chaos and civil unrest, and argues that the U.S. Supreme Court, which has the ultimate say, may not endorse a self-executing interpretation that could have such far-reaching and divisive consequences.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut discusses Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s legal strategy in her case against Donald Trump and various co-defendants for an alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election. Mr. Aftergut observes that Willis seems to be focusing on securing guilty pleas from less central co-conspirators to strengthen her case against major defendants like Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, and Sidney Powell, while potentially offering lesser charges to those willing to cooperate and testify, thereby avoiding the risk of revealing too much of her case before a full trial.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat argues that Donald Trump has weaponized free speech to undermine American democracy and legal institutions, posing a complex challenge for the judicial system and society at large. Professor Sarat emphasizes the importance of a pending legal motion for a gag order against Trump, arguing that it could be a critical step in countering the destructive effects of his inflammatory speech on the legal process and public trust.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat argues that American democracy is at a critical juncture, facing existential threats in the lead-up to the 2024 presidential election. Professor Sarat contends that Donald Trump and his supporters are sowing distrust in the electoral system by labeling legal actions against Trump as “election interference,” a strategy that is dividing public opinion and undermining faith in democratic institutions, potentially leading to dire consequences for the future of American democracy regardless of the 2024 election outcome.
Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan argues that mainstream media’s self-reckoning after the 2016 U.S. presidential election led to an overcompensation, which gave platforms to conservative “outside voices” that did not authentically represent the “Real America” they claimed to understand. Professor Buchanan criticizes this overcompensation for leading to an uncritical amplification of narratives like Gary Abernathy’s, which justify and perpetuate the divisive and false beliefs held by Trump supporters, while failing to meaningfully engage with the deeper issues.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat criticizes efforts by some Republicans to use the power of the purse to protect former President Donald Trump from criminal prosecutions. Professor Sarat argues that such actions are not only an abuse of power but also potentially unconstitutional, undermining the separation of powers and echoing historic misuses of legislative authority.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the Fulton County indictment process involving Donald Trump and 18 others, including Kenneth Chesebro, who allegedly created the “fake elector” scheme. Mr. Aftergut explains the possible strategies by the prosecutor and defense, focusing on how Chesebro’s now-severed trial could pave the way for other prosecutions in the case, and provides insights into the evidence against him, emphasizing that a conviction in his trial could offer momentum for cases against Trump and other defendants.
Penn professor Marci Hamilton highlights the alarming alignment between Donald Trump and right-leaning evangelicals in undermining the rule of law, suggesting that both view it as an expendable barrier to their goals. Professor Hamilton draws attention to Trump's lawlessness and the evangelicals' belief that their religious convictions should override legal principles, creating a synergy where both groups assist each other, even as Trump faces legal accusations.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat describes the deep dissatisfaction and uncertainty surrounding the potential presidential candidates for the 2024 election, with recent polls showing neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden as favorable choices for many Americans. Highlighting a historic level of pessimism about the country's direction, Professor Sarat warns that the upcoming “hold your nose” election, characterized by choosing the lesser of two evils, may pose a significant threat to the future of the Democratic Party and American democracy as a whole.
Cornell professor Joseph Margulies reflects on two recent high-profile legal events: the indictment of Donald Trump for allegedly subverting democracy and the death sentencing of Robert Bowers for the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history. Professor Margulies suggests that these cases, viewed by many as a triumph for the rule of law, represent societal attempts to protect integral aspects of American identity, with their punishment seen as purging threats to this identity. However, Professor Margulies argues that the law should not be weaponized to decide who belongs in society, as it usurps an authority that rightfully belongs to the people.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat highlights the potential of Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment of former President Donald Trump as a teaching resource in civics education, particularly in understanding the intersection of free speech, political lies, and democracy. Professor Sarat argues that the indictment can help clarify First Amendment rights concerning false statements, explain the importance of federalism in the U.S. electoral system, and illustrate the roles of “moral rebels” who stood against potential autocratic behavior, thereby offering crucial insights into America’s political culture and constitutional system.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on today's announcement that federal district court judge Aileen Cannon set a May 2024 trial date in Donald Trump’s trial for obstructing justice and unlawfully taking and retaining national security documents at Mar-a-Lago after he left office. Mr. Aftergut points out that Judge Cannon “split the baby” by choosing a date between the proposals of Special Counsel Jack Smith and Trump’s lawyers but argues that the decision reveals little about whether she will treat Trump more favorably than other criminal defendants.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the “speaking indictment” of Donald Trump and what it means. Mr. Aftergut argues that the indictment illustrates the principle no one is above the law.
Cornell professor Joseph Margulies distinguishes between the calls to prosecute officials from the George. W. Bush administration over their war crimes and the present prosecution of Donald Trump. Professor Margulies explains why he opposed prosecution of Bush but supports prosecution of Trump: Bush had the best interests of the country at heart, whereas the same cannot plausibly be said about Trump.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on the recent news that Judge Aileen Cannon has been assigned to the federal grand jury indictment of Donald Trump. Mr. Aftergut explains the possible outcomes if Judge Cannon does not recuse herself from the case and what Special Counsel Jack Smith might have in mind.