President Donald Trump sparked outrage on Saturday morning when he quoted the opening lines from a two-week old New York Times article likening himself to a king and lauding the notion that his impeachment acquittal in the Senate would embolden his re-election campaign fueled by “grievance, persecution and resentment.” Legal experts were appalled that president would broadcast the royal comparison–particularly in the wake of one of the most controversial weeks of his administration.
…..biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.” Peter Baker @nytimes The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2020
Trump gravitated towards and singled out a kingly comparison in Times White House correspondent Peter Baker’s story:
“Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Trump. ‘When you strike at the King, Emerson famously said, ‘you must kill him.’ Mr. Trump’s foes struck at him but did not take him down. A triumphant Mr. Trump emerges from the……….biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.” Peter Baker @nytimes The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!
Trump’s conduct since the impeachment trial has largely confirmed Baker’s prediction. In just the last week alone Trump has been accused of directing Attorney General William Barr to show leniency in criminal cases involving his friends and associates, extorting the governor of New York to drop lawsuits against both his administration and him personally, and ridding the White House of officials that testified against him during the House impeachment investigation.
“This may be the most sinister tweet Trump has ever posted,” University of Michigan law professor and former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade wrote. “He is comparing himself with a king and threatening to use his powers for revenge on those who questioned his abuse of power. This after AG Barr said Trump’s tweets make it hard for him to do his job. Any response Mr. AG?”
This may be the most sinister tweet Trump has ever posted. He is comparing himself with a king and threatening to use his powers for revenge on those who questioned his abuse of power. This after AG Barr said Trump’s tweets make it hard for him to do his job. Any response Mr. AG? https://t.co/SKEHnbGLOs
— Barb McQuade (@BarbMcQuade) February 15, 2020
Philip Hackney, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and the former chief counsel at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), said the tweet reflected Trump’s approach to politics in general.
“What’s interesting is how useful Peter Bakers framing enemy versus friend plays into the politics here,” he wrote, before apparently referencing Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan. “In that frame there is no rule of law, no equality of citizen, just pure brute raw power against power. This is Hobbes world.”
What's interesting is how useful Peter Bakers framing enemy versus friend plays into the politics here. In that frame there is no rule of law, no equality of citizen, just pure brute raw power against power. This is Hobbes world. https://t.co/VIoWdHswCl
— Philip Hackney (@EOTaxProf) February 15, 2020
George Conway, the anti-Trump attorney husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, pointed out that Trump was essentially confirming that personal vendettas were an integral part of his political platform.
“So in essence: He’s admitting that he’s running on a platform of unrestrained narcissism,” he wrote.
So in essence: He’s admitting that he’s running on a platform of unrestrained narcissism. https://t.co/igvXAxjJ7P
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) February 15, 2020
Several others, many of them lawyers, immediately expressed their dismay at the monarchical reference from the President of the United States.
The president loves this famous reference about kings and retribution, tweeting it out just to reiterate the point and confirm the argument that the House made with the articles of impeachment. https://t.co/FtYKBcHqx8
— Julian Zelizer (@julianzelizer) February 15, 2020
10 days post-impeachment & he thinks he’s the king. https://t.co/nNY3PfAmWz
— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) February 15, 2020
Trump likes the sound of emboldened, case of grievance, persecution and resentment as the forces driving him. https://t.co/05wzs5iuIC
— Annie Karni (@anniekarni) February 15, 2020
Sure would be an interesting day to read a book that examines Trump’s obsession with the king-like powers of his office and how the American presidency came to include monarchical elements in the first place. https://t.co/TxfUZ7pHqv pic.twitter.com/yU1yiEm2hQ
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) February 15, 2020
Bill Barr would already be appointed special prosecutor
— Daniel Uhlfelder (@DWUhlfelderLaw) February 15, 2020
you're not king
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) February 15, 2020
[image via Joe Raedle_Getty Images]