April 13, 2019

The last 3 years have felt so dark, but the last week in particular has felt especially bleak. It feels as if our country has taken several gigantic steps further into autocracy, and the only likely remedy is more and more dramatic. Trump is telling officers meant to enforce the law to break it, promising to use the military for his own dangerous political whims, and mocking its built-in restraints. He's claiming in not-too-thinly-veiled terms that he plans to harm people who disagree with him by releasing people he considers disease-ridden and criminal (they aren't) into cities that vote for Democrats. Nicolle Wallace asked Chuck Rosenberg about the events of this week, aptly describing them as "lurches towards authoritarianism, towards extrajudicial mentality."

ROSENBERG: I don't know precisely what's going on, but I can tell you this, Nicolle. At least historically, pardons were an act of presidential compassion and mercy. Certainly how they were designed and intended. We have been talking for the last 22 months about pardons as an act of obstruction of justice and evidence of intent. Now it seems, according to the Times reporting, and I can't wait to read it, that pardons are also a projection of presidential power in a policy-making role. And that's just hard for me to comprehend. It just doesn't fit with anything I ever knew about presidential authority or how presidents use pardons, as I said, for mercy and compassion. Can I make one other point about sanctuary cities?

WALLACE: Please.

ROSENBERG: So from a law enforcement perspective, I'm not an immigration expert but from a law enforcement perspective, it's often the case that our most vulnerable populations, right, include members of the immigrant communities. They come from countries like El Salvador or Honduras or Guatemala or Mexico, where local police departments are not very good, not very competent, and can't always be trusted. Criminals know that, and we don't want criminals preying on the most vulnerable people in society. So we need to encourage people to be comfortable, to come forward to law enforcement as victims, as witnesses, to report what they've seen. So at least one of the theories behind sanctuary cities is that if you come forward, if you report yourself to a police officer or to an administrator or to someone in your community or your city, you're not going to get turned into immigration and deported. And that's one of the rationales behind it. I'm not saying, I'm not making an argument per se for sanctuary cities. I'm trying to explain, though, why we need our immigrant community to be comfortable with law enforcement and to be willing to come forward. So the notion you would punish sanctuary cities for taking this approach, and for embracing their immigrant community strikes me as crazy.

See, but that's assuming the cruelty wasn't the point. With this entire administration, it IS the point. Trump is Rosenberg's polar opposite — someone with an understanding of the origins and benevolence of powers like pardons, an appreciation for the underlying compassion of laws like those that established sanctuary cities. Someone with an instinct to protect the vulnerable, rather than exploit and abuse them. Hell, Trump won't even acknowledge the vulnerability in anyone, let alone someone with darker skin. Trump mangles anything he touches, even things like pardons and sanctuary cities that were meant to be used with compassion and mercy. That's what happens when we give power to someone who completely lacks either of those qualities.

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