Like Spongebob Squarepants, this may be Donald Trump’s best day ever—or at least his best political day since Election Night 2016. It’s not just the debate, which not only displayed Joe Biden at his horrifying worst but also Trump at his own personal best. It’s not just the emotional meltdown of the Democratic Party in the wake of the debate, which will increase the sense among the electorate that Trump and the Republicans might have the steadier hands to control the American tiller. It’s that the Supreme Court released a ruling that the Biden Justice Department  unconstitutionally stretched a 2002 law about financial reporting rules beyond that law’s remit to provide itself with the means of charging and securing the convictions of hundreds of would-be insurrectionists for their actions on January 6, 2021.

We really shouldn’t understate the political significance of this decision. In one blow, Fischer v. United States legitimizes Trump’s argument about the overreach of the Biden Justice Department in pursuing political opponents. And it does so through a 6-3 decision that includes Biden appointee Ketanji Brown Jackson—with the dissent against the finding written by Trump’s final nominee (so far?) to the Court, Amy Coney Barrett. It also broadens that argument in a way that will benefit Trump because he can talk about a DOJ injustice done to others rather than to himself.

And he is already being helped along by Attorney General Merrick Garland, fresh from blinking back tears the other day talking about the anti-Semitic crimes he is taking no action whatever to combat. Garland announced he was “disappointed by today’s decision,” and reassured Americans that “the vast majority of the more than 1,400 defendants charged for their illegal actions on January 6 will not be affected.” This is one of the worst arguments I have ever seen anyone make. If, say, 250 people have been convicted of felonies and have served time in prison on unconstitutional grounds, the proper thing to do in the wake of such a decision isn’t to praise yourself for the convictions of the other 1,150. It’s to ask yourself whether the reward (the convictions that will stand) was worth the cost (the lives and well-being of those whom the Court found were unconstitutionally convicted).

Since Garland could not do that, for obvious political reasons, the prudent thing for him would have been to say nothing. But Garland is a member of an administration that has been rocked on its heels for many months now, as its bizarre handling of the Gaza conflict has demonstrated. Its instincts were awry, as the choice to pursue a debate the infirm Biden couldn’t possibly ever have won has now proved. But as Garland just demonstrated, the Biden team may have lost most of whatever connection its members might have had to basic political reality.

 

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