June 14, 2016

Donald Trump, Olympian Offender

Offense of the Month: June 2016
He’s back — well, at least in my columns. He’s been daily on your other screens, I know, though we can pray that two or three years from now today’s junior high school students will wonder who he was. But at least for this month he’s back, having taken the art of offending to Olympic proportions.

The offense: explicitly asserting that a federal judge cannot be trusted to rule impartially because of his ancestry.

If you’re reading this years after the event, you can be pardoned for not remembering what is vivid to any American reading the newspapers or watching the evening news in June 2016. The Donald, we learned, doesn’t like Federal District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is handling two civil class actions brought against him by former “students” of “Trump University,” an unaccredited institute of lower learning that granted no degrees. One suit essentially charges Trump and his organization with fraud; the other brands it a criminal racketeering scheme. Trump is unhappy about Judge Curiel’s refusal to grant summary judgment in the fraud case. Summary judgment depends on the nature of the dispute, not on the accuracy of the facts. To warrant summary judgment, the judge must determine that the parties agree on the facts — that is, that no factual dispute exists between them — and that they are arguing only over the meaning of the law. But in the fraud case — the summary judgment motion in the RICO case is still pending — Judge Curiel said that Trump and the former students vigorously disagreed about the extent of Trump’s involvement in recruiting the students and in promises made.

In early June, Trump attacked Judge Curiel for not withdrawing from the case because of his “Mexican heritage” and the “inherent conflict of interest” that necessarily exists, Trump claimed, because “I’m building a wall.” Earlier, Trump called the judge “a hater of Donald Trump” and “a disgrace” who should “be ashamed of himself,” and he has warned darkly that the federal judiciary “ought to look into Judge Curiel.”

Now it turns out that Judge Curiel was born and raised in Indiana. His parents were Mexican immigrants. In Trump’s view, you are what your ancestors are and subject to attack if your ancestors might have disliked a non-mainstream candidate like Trump because he took a dim view of the country from which you emigrated. Follow Trump’s logic and no one is fit to judge him. Except, I guess, American voters.

Runner up: Parting from (short) tradition, I name a runner-up for this month, one Leslie Rasmussen, a 20-year old friend of Brock Turner, the former Stanford student who was convicted in March of a 2015 sexual assault on an unconscious woman. Much has been made this month of the lenient sentence imposed by Judge Aaron Persky: six months (instead of six years, as prosecutors had sought) in a case that caught the nation’s attention because of the powerful statement the victim addressed to Turner in court. Runner-up Rasmussen is a childhood pal of Turner’s. His offensive statement came in a letter to the judge: “Where do we draw the line and stop worrying about being politically correct every second of the day and see that rape on campuses isn’t always because people are rapists?” Take that, Judge! Take that, America! If it hadn’t been “politically correct,” you certainly wouldn’t have been labeling my friend here a rapist, and sentencing him and all. I mean, just because he sexually assaulted her. Yep, it’s all the fault of that PC culture (oh yeah, and alcohol).