Trump: Americans May Be Tried In Military Tribunals Under His Administration

495px-Donald_Trump_by_Gage_SkidmoreCamp_x-ray_detaineesI have long been a critic of military tribunals as constitutionally dubious and practically ineffectual institutions. The tribunals at Guantanamo Bay have resulted in few actual trials and undermined the standing of the United States as a nation committed to the rule of law. The principle rationale cited by former officials in defense of Gitmo has been that it would not be used to try citizens. Now in a deeply disturbing interview, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has stated that he might try citizens at Gitmo — maintaining a shadow court system for stripping citizens of basic rights of due process just a few miles off the United States shore.

As an attorney who has long practiced in the national security field (including terrorism cases), the tribunal system has never made a great deal of sense to me. Federal courts have long tried terrorists and the government has a high success rate in such cases. The creation of a faux court system only gives our enemies a rallying cry and fuels those who to call us hypocrites.

Those concerns are magnified by Trump’s dismissal of any distinction between citizens and non-citizens in the use of such tribunals. In an interview with the Miami Herald on Thursday, Trump was asked if he would use the tribunals against U.S. citizens. Trump responded: “Well, I know that they want to try them in our regular court systems, and I don’t like that at all. I don’t like that at all. I would say they could be tried there, that would be fine.”

That may be fine in Trump’s view but it would also be unconstitutional. Presidents are not allowed to create alternative court systems for denying citizens of core rights at their discretion. Such a Caesar-like role runs against the very grain of the American constitutional system. The statement by Trump reflects a disconcerting lack of faith in our court system and a fundamental misunderstanding of the limits placed upon presidents in our constitutional system.

What do you think?

84 thoughts on “Trump: Americans May Be Tried In Military Tribunals Under His Administration”

  1. Steve,
    P.S. I ask about the Estate Tax not because I am trying to defend Trump (egad), but because I have had concerns about that tax in regards to farmers. How do they factor in, if at all?

  2. Olly,
    Great comment!

    “If voters were given a choice of “None of the Above” that “candidate” would be polling 20-25% and eligible to be on the debate stage.”

    I would like to think that percentage would be higher!

  3. Steve Groen,
    I thought one of the problems with the Estate Tax was that it made passing down the family farm nearly impossible/unaffordable. Did that get fixed? Not sure what the average farm estate is worth nowadays.

  4. @phillyT

    Wow, I thought that HRC had stopped funding for “Correct the Record” – apparently not. Well I hope you receive your check from the Demoncrats.

    Best cash it promptly as the DNC is toast!

  5. Really people!

    He was saying it sarcastically and didn’t mean it that way at all! What’s the matter with you?

    Or maybe he was saying it stochastically, in which case he is highly uncertain what he meant.

    But we know he was saying it fantastically, because Donald is nothing if not lost in a fantasy.

    Stay tuned, he will fix it tomorrow after they do a complete shutdown and reboot.

  6. @HopeH

    Squeek and I both said we would wait to see what Trump says.

    Meanwhile Obomber, who promised to shut down Gitmo, has the place chock full of people who have not been charged with a crime and have not had their day in court AND signed in the NDAA on New Year’s Eve when the country was out celebrating.

    You want pathetic: here’s what’s pathetic – the man who ran on the most transparent presidency has steadily (stealthily??) eroded our civil liberties. Prosecuted more whistle blowers than ANY other prez in history. Pushes for the TPP which will undermine our national sovereignty.

    you just can’t stand it that the Trumpsters and Bernieorbusters (now Steiners) are uniting to save our nation from neo lib/ neo con HRC

    me thinks you are an angry Hilbot.

  7. @slohrss29

    I have to say that I have respect for Putin because he is doing what he is supposed to do, putting his own country first. I don’t agree with his politics or tactics, but that doesn’t deflect from the fact that he is so unlike his dim-witted, brutish, drunken predecessors. He is educated (an attorney), athletic, a non-drinker, supportive of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian culture in general. Unlike the girly-man Obama traveling the world and bowing to dictators who hate us, Putin is strong and decisive and doesn’t apologize for being patriotic.

  8. TIN, we’re supposed to hate Russians now, they won’t do what they’re told. Listen to his Smugness in Chief lecture Putin about the emails. They sure do make awesome custom titanium bicycles though.

  9. @TIN

    Hilarious! You would not catch me in Rio, unless I could bring my AK with me! And about three or four magazines. Like Reader’s Digest, and the Utne Reader. . .


    I have no problem admitting when I am wrong. Which does occur from time to time. I find it much less onerous than pretending to be perfect.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  10. Trump’s utter disdain for the Constitution is contemptible AND it has a long historical pedigree:

    “The government was to exist and move by virtue of the efficacy of ‘checks and balances.’ The trouble with the theory is that government is not a machine, but a living thing. It falls, not under the theory of the universe, but under the theory of organic life. It is accountable to Darwin, not to Newton. It is modified by its environment, necessitated by its tasks, shaped to its functions by the sheer pressure of life.” – Woodrow Wilson

    And thus began the long slide during which the Constitution, year by year, became less protective of our natural rights. Since Wilson’s utterances, we’ve had the Espionage Act of 1917, internment camps for citizens of the “wrong” descent, numerous undeclared wars, administrative law judges, the Patriot Act, Presidential kill lists, and on and on.

    The 20th and 21st centuries produced Wilson’s dream of an ever expanding centralization of power, from the states to the federal government, and increasingly in the president and the administrative state. Our history of liberty and constitutional protection of individual rights is exactly that, a history.

  11. @Dieter

    So Squeeky Fromm, Girl Reporter is a “she/he?” Are you saying that Squeeky is a Trans-Girl Reporter? Do you know something that the rest of us don’t? Dang, I had no idea!

  12. @ Squeeky

    I heard something about Brazil the other day…..A man wearing a suit walked out of the Russian Embassy in Rio. Half-way down the block, a thug stuck a gun in his face and demanded his wallet and cell phone. The Russian pulled some quick ju jitsu moves, kicking the gun out of his hand and shooting him with his own gun. When the cops arrived, witnesses told them that the Russian had returned to the Embassy. The cops went over there but staff told them that there was no such person there, and that they didn’t know anything about it. The cops just shrugged and left. Another unsolved killing in Brazil, of someone who probably needed killing anyway. So I’m all for bringing more Russians to Washington D.C., if they are KGB agents well trained in ju jitsu. They are not at all P.C., and don’t give a damn if they give DeQuarius Jefferson or Jesus Rodriguez what they have coming. In fact, I would feel safe taking a KGB agent to dinner in D.C., where most of the Feds won’t venture at night, scurrying back to the safe suburbs of Virginia and Maryland.

  13. @Jay S

    Yes! It will have to be the police who do it, and not vigilantes, though. IIRC I read about some guy in New York who popped some caps into a bunch of thugs. Paul Kersey maybe??? Anyway, I think he went to jail.

    The police know who the bad guys are. You either get rid of them or soon we will be like Brazil! Where I overheard today on the news, that the Army there was attacked by machine gun fire in one of the neighborhoods. Imagine how Mexico could clean up if they just turned the military loose on the narco-gangs!

    Here’s the problem. If you continue with all the due process stuff, another 24,000 people will die this year just from overdoses. Not even counting the murders and screwed up neighborhoods. Sometimes you just gotta clean house.

    Squeeky Fromm
    Girl Reporter

  14. Re secession, I am reluctantly concluding that Flyover Country should secede in one piece, leaving Left Coast and Right Coast America behind. What do you suppose the two fragments of America would be like after 5, 10, 50, 100 years?

  15. To Squeeky –
    So, you are advocating a “Duterte solution,” whereby the authorities (or maybe vigilantes?) execute a few thousand “bad guys,” to motivate the rest of us towards morality?? Of course, who decides who gets rubbed out? Certainly no due process involved. So invariably, gunning for a few thousand bad guys will also take out a few dozen or a few hundred innocents. You OK with that?

  16. I believe I’ve been following this “legal” blog for only 2 years and in that period of time I’ve learned that there are very few contributors here that are more interested in the rule of law than the agenda of their respective political parties. One’s world view should never be more important than the system of government designed to contain the ambitions of those empowered to govern. If we as a people cannot unite on the fundamental first principles this nation was founded on, and by that I mean the self-evident truths written in the Declaration of Independence, then don’t hold out hope for the rule of law. That hope train left the station when the people put party before principles.

  17. No. You are wrong. He said it would be ok to try American citizens at Gitmo. Watch the attached video.

    With scant doubt, he’s referring to characters like John Walker Lindh.

    If I’m not mistaken, two of the Long Island Four / Florida Four crew were American citizens. They were tried in courts-martial in 1942. Two were imprisoned and six executed.

    1. Art Deco – all of Operation Pastorius were tried by court martial. Two were American citizens. All had lived in the United States.

  18. Paul,

    We are at war illegally and being at war does not suspend the constitution.

    You really should be signing the praises of Obama and Clinton at this point because the cell phone in their drone kills of civilians and American citizens, while Obama has set up a completely separate judicial system that has no basis in US law but has all the hallmarks of a dictatorship.

    This is where people on the right and left do converge-many don’t really care about dismantling the rule of law as long as the person doing the dismantling is your guy or gal.

    As citizens, we are not standing with our own values and protecting our rights. We need to do this. Failure to do so has led exactly to the place we are at now–powerful people escaping trials and imprisonment for heinous crimes while perfectly innocent people are tortured, rendered and jailed. One of those innocent people could be you or someone you love. It just depends if you’re on the side of the powerful. Once you’re not, there is absolutely nothing between you and a military tribunal.

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