Emil Guillermo: SCOTUS gives American democracy a demi-king

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As we approach the 248th birthday of our country on July 4th, consider that at no time in our history-- from the founders to modern times—has anyone ever thought it necessary to do what happened Monday.

The Supreme Court just turned our constitution upside down and made the president a “demi-king.”

You've heard of a demi-god. Now SCOTUS has given our democracy a demi-king.

And, of course, the case involves the former disruptor-in-chief.

In Trump v. United States, six conservative justices enabled the former president once again to change our country’s constitutional norms.

This time, Trump won near absolute immunity for his alleged criminal actions connected to the insurrection of Jan. 6, and possibly the two other criminal cases he faces.

To understand the broader significance of the court decision, forget about the oft cited example of a president sending in Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political opponent.

Could a president do that? Under this new ruling, yes, but some say that’s rather hyperbolic.

So take it down a few notches and consider this rather pedestrian hypothetical.

Say you’re an Asian American activist, working to stave off the right-wing attempt to end birthright citizenship under the 14th Amendment and United States v. Wong Kim Ark (considered a priority in that Republican blueprint “Project 2025”).

And say you’re active to the point of annoyance that you’re considered an “enemy,” and targeted by the 47th president (whoever that might be, perhaps Trump).

Monday’s 6-3 SCOTUS decision allows the president to order the FBI to background check you, harass you, and put you under constant surveillance.

Invasion of privacy? Not after Trump v. U.S.

The ruling in Trump allows a president to engage in any activity and have near absolute immunity from prosecution, so long as it’s an “official action.”

It’s so loosely defined, it could pertain to just about anything connected to the president.

What about the phrase, “no man is above the law?”

That’s still true, but with the shocking new exception. A president, in his official capacity, is above you, me, and above the law.

“Today’s decision to grant former Presidents criminal immunity reshapes the institution of the Presidency,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in dissent. “It makes a mockery of the principle, foundational to our Constitution and system of Government that no man is above the law.”

Sotomayor said the court’s majority relied on its “own misguided wisdom about the need for ‘bold and unhesitating action’ by the President and gave former President Trump all the immunity he asked for and more.”

The political high court. Maybe they should wear red robes instead of black?

It immediately called into question the Jan. 6 election interference case against Trump in D.C., which will now be sent back to the lower court to see what’s prosecutable under the new standard. It’s certain now that none of Trump’s three remaining criminal cases will be heard by election day.

It may even impact Trump’s 34-count conviction in the Manhattan state court. Late Monday, Trump lawyers didn’t wait to use the new ruling to challenge the outcomes in that case.

Sotomayor’s dissent asserted that a president’s use of any act, “even the most corrupt,” would be immune from prosecution.“That is just as bad as it sounds, and it is baseless,” Sotomayor wrote.

She was also alarmed that evidence concerning an act for which a president is immune can’t be used against him. “That holding, which will prevent the Government from using the President’s official acts to prove knowledge or intent in prosecuting private offenses, is nonsensical.”

Sotomayor’s opinion contained her own hypothetical concerning a President’s speech: “Imagine a President states in an official speech that he intends to stop a political rival from passing legislation that he opposes, no matter what it takes to do so (official act). He then hires a private hitman to murder the political rival (unofficial act). Under the majority’s rule, the murder indictment could include no allegation of the President’s public admission” of the premeditated intent of murder.

Sotomayor said the troubling majority decision was not based on law or history and effectively creates a “law free zone around the President”

She described the majority decision as “a loaded weapon for any President that wishes to place his own interests, his own political survival or his own financial gain, above the interests of the Nation.”

Sound like some former president we all know?

“The damage has been done,” Sotomayor said in her opinion’s closing graphs. “The relationship between the President and the people he serves has shifted irrevocably. In every use of official power, the President is now a king above the law.”

She ended her opinion: “With fear for our democracy, I dissent.”

Think about that and all the hypotheticals posed here as you grill your vegan hot dogs on the 4th of July.

How do we fight it? You hope for good and decent people to run for office to serve our country, from dog catcher to the President.

And then you use the best weapon there is in our system—your vote.

Give that vote to the good ones--the ones who disavow dictatorship and autocracy. They’re the ones who believe in the revolution that overthrew a King, gave us the 4th of July and established our America.

Don’t give your vote to those who would allow for a demi-king–not in a democracy.


NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on