Evan McMullin ran as a conservative independent in the election and ran up some pretty respectable numbers in places such as Utah. Unlike Dr. Jill Stein, he was not a threat to Hillary Clinton. But speaking of threats, he’s not enamored of Trump’s awkward acquaintance with both the Constitution and the rule of law.
On July 7, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, met privately with House Republicans near the Capitol. I was present as chief policy director of the House Republican Conference. Mr. Trump’s purpose was to persuade the representatives to unite around him, a pitch he delivered in a subdued version of his stream-of-consciousness style. A congresswoman asked him about his plans to protect Article I of the Constitution, which assigns all federal lawmaking power to Congress.
Mr. Trump interrupted her to declare his commitment to the Constitution — even to parts of it that do not exist, such as “Article XII.” Shock swept through the room as Mr. Trump confirmed one of our chief concerns about him: He lacked a basic knowledge of the Constitution.
There is still deeper cause for concern. Mr. Trump’s erroneous proclamation also suggested that he lacked even an interest in the Constitution. Worse, his campaign rhetoric had demonstrated authoritarian tendencies.
He had questioned judicial independence, threatened the freedom of the press, called for violating Muslims’ equal protection under the law, promised the use of torture and attacked Americans based on their gender, race and religion. He had also undermined critical democratic norms including peaceful debate and transitions of power, commitment to truth, freedom from foreign interference and abstention from the use of executive power for political retribution.
There is little indication that anything has changed since Election Day. Last week, Mr. Trump commented on Twitter that flag-burning should be punished by jailing and revocation of citizenship. As someone who has served this country, I carry no brief for flag-burners, but I defend their free-speech right to protest — a right guaranteed under the First Amendment. Although I suspect that Mr. Trump’s chief purpose was to provoke his opponents, his action was consistent with the authoritarian playbook he uses.
Mr. McMullin is not telling us anything we didn’t already know or suspect. What is most troublesome is that Trump enables the people whose knowledge or understanding of the Constitution is limited to a bumper-sticker level of the Bill of Rights: invoking the First Amendment when “Duck Dynasty” gets banned for racism and not grasping the fact that cable TV shows aren’t run by Congress and therefore immune to the prohibition against telling bearded wingnuts to shut up, or skipping the First altogether and landing square on the Second Amendment and staying there.
To paraphrase Edward R. Murrow, Trump did not create this climate, he merely exploited it, and he’s hiring people who enable it.
Michael Flynn Jr. — the son of Trump’s pick for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — has used his social media platform to amplify unfounded conspiracy theories ranging from President Obama’s purported hatred of Christians to Sen. Marco Rubio’s alleged cocaine habit.
He made headlines Sunday for tweeting that PizzaGate — an unfounded conspiracy theory that Clinton aides are operating a child sex ring out of a pizza parlor — “remains a story” until it’s “proven to be false.”
Flynn Jr.’s unabashed conspiracy mongering — something his dad has also engaged in recently — hasn’t prevented him from forging close ties with President-elect Trump. On Monday, CNN reported that Flynn Jr. “has an official government transition email address,” which indicates he has a role on Trump’s transition team.
Foreign Policy reports that Flynn Jr. “has assisted in personnel vetting, managing his father’s schedule, and fielding transition-related emails for the general, according to a person close to the Trump transition team.” The unnamed source told Foreign Policy that Flynn Jr. also “accompanies his dad to a ton of meetings.”
On Twitter, Flynn Jr. has posted images of himself with his dad at Trump Tower and walking with Trump. His bio links to the Trump transition team’s official webpage.