Thomas Coffin

Thomas Coffin is a retired U.S. Magistrate Judge and career attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. He served in the Southern District of California where he was Chief of the Criminal Division as well as the District of Oregon. While on the bench, he presided over the landmark American Disabilities Act case of Martin v. The PGA Tour in which he granted a disabled professional golfer the accommodation of a golf cart to allow him to compete in professional golf tournaments. He also presided over initial proceedings in the climate change lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, alleging violations of plaintiffs' protected rights by the government's promotion of fossil fuels despite knowing its policies would result in an uninhabitable environment. He retired from the bench in 2016 after 24 years on the court.

March 24, 2020

The Lawless Presidency

The unprecedented attack by the president on the prosecutors and judge involved in the Roger Stone trial represents an all-out blitzkrieg against this Nation’s foundational bedrock—the Rule of Law.

That he is joined in this assault on justice by the person entrusted with safeguarding our system of justice—the Attorney General of the United States—is an astounding betrayal of their oath to defend the Constitution and amounts to an attack on democracy itself.

There is no sanitizing such an infamous intervention in the case of an unrepentant criminal, found guilty of serious felonies after a jury trial: It is a transparent attempt by the president and a wholly submissive Department of Justice to subvert the legal system and demand favored treatment because the defendant is a friend and mentor of the president.

The pressure exerted includes personal attacks on the presiding judge and threats to investigate the prosecutors who handled the case. If successful, this alarming interference with the wheels of justice would result in a mortal blow to the solemn precept that everyone is equal under the law and no one is above the law. Any attempt to soften the significance of this action (the usual apologists are no doubt already busy with the narrative) is equivalent to characterizing the attack on Pearl Harbor as a blip in diplomacy.

The debacle in the Senate, in connection with President Trump’s attempt to withhold appropriated aid to the Ukraine unless it agreed to conduct a criminal investigation against a domestic political rival, has directly led to and emboldened this attack on the Rule of Law. Without bothering to hear any testimony, and with patent disdain for arriving at the truth, the majority party simply acquitted Trump by finding it did not matter if he engaged in the charged misconduct. In other words, the president (if his name is Donald Trump) is above the reach of law (one of his defenders in the proceedings advocated that the president could do anything he wanted if he believed it would help him get re-elected.)

His acquittal was immediately followed by his retaliation against those who conducted the Congressional investigation leading to impeachment and those who cooperated or testified in the proceedings. From tweeting for “retribution“ against a House member (a typically coded suggestion enjoying all the subtlety of middle school sophistication) to outright dismissals from employment, the trademark vindictiveness of this president was immediately unleashed.

That such actions against participants and witnesses in official proceedings would be the subject of criminal investigations if committed by anyone else is of no consequence whatsoever given the Senate’s 007 licensure.

Having created the beast of a president unchecked by law and Constitution, his Senate enablers console us with their thoughts and prayers as he continues on the path to destroy our democracy.

If Paul Revere were alive today, he would ride to warn us that “The president is coming!”