15 Nov 2018

New #NeverTrump Attorneys Group

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The Times yesterday applauded the arrival of a new anti-Trump Legal Group founded by conservatives.

[M]ore than a dozen prominent conservative lawyers have joined together to sound a note of caution. They are urging their fellow conservatives to speak up about what they say are the Trump administration’s betrayals of bedrock legal norms.

“Conservative lawyers are not doing enough to protect constitutional principles that are being undermined by the statements and actions of this president,” said John B. Bellinger III, a top State Department and White House lawyer under President George W. Bush.

The group, called Checks and Balances, was organized by George T. Conway III, a conservative lawyer and the husband of President Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway. In recent opinion articles, Mr. Conway has criticized Mr. Trump’s statements on birthright citizenship and argued that his appointment of Matthew G. Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general violated the Constitution.

The new group also includes Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of homeland security in the Bush administration; Peter D. Keisler, a former acting attorney general in the Bush administration; two prominent conservative law professors, Jonathan H. Adler and Orin S. Kerr; and Lori S. Meyer, a lawyer who is married to Eugene B. Meyer, the president of the Federalist Society.

“We believe in the rule of law, the power of truth, the independence of the criminal justice system, the imperative of individual rights and the necessity of civil discourse,” the group said in a statement. “We believe these principles apply regardless of the party or persons in power.”

Mr. Conway, who has long been a member of and contributor to the Federalist Society, said he had nothing but admiration for its work. But he added that some conservative lawyers, pleased with Mr. Trump’s record on judicial nominations and deregulation, have been wary of criticizing him in other areas, as when he attacks the Justice Department and the news media.

In a recent opinion article, George T. Conway III criticized Mr. Trump’s statements on birthright citizenship.CreditChip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“There’s a perception out there that conservative lawyers have essentially sold their souls for judges and regulatory reform,” Mr. Conway said. “We just want to be a voice speaking out, and to encourage others to speak out.”

The new group’s members say their goal is not to criticize the Federalist Society but to encourage debate about some of the Trump administration’s policies and actions. …

In interviews, the group’s members said they did not speak with a single voice and had varying concerns about the administration’s policies.


A lot of Ivy League graduates derive from their education, and the architecture, and the centuries of tradition and prestige, the firm belief that the American Establishment enjoys the mandate of heaven, and cannot possibly be fundamentally wrong. They are not comfortable in the role of rebels and outsiders.

It is obviously a social class thing. Donald Trump is an uncouth vulgarian with a loose mouth and a bad haircut. It simply will not do to be associated with a ragamuffin like Trump. It is not respectable. Besides, the democrats now have the House, and soon the knives will really come out. Maybe Trump will go down. Maybe they’ll mau mau him out of office the way they did Nixon. Time to start taking out some insurance. I’m dazzled by all the high principle.

When Justice Kennedy decided that the US Constitution mandated Same Sex Marriage, that, I’d say, undermined the Rule of Law. When Obama’s head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, Russlynn Ali, sent a “Dear Colleague” letter threatening universities with the loss of federal funding unless they immediately created Star Chambers with lowered evidence standards and reduced rights for the accused to investigate sexual harassment accusations, that undermined the Rule of Law. When left-wing, democrat-appointed federal district judges arbitrarily set out to overturn one Executive Branch policy after another single-handed, that undermined the Rule of Law. Right now, when democrats, having lost elections, get extensions provided by partisan district judges and magically produce more ballots, that undermines Democracy and the Rule of Law.

But those brave, high-principled conservative solons were never bothered enough by any left-wing distortions of the Constitution or end-runs around the Rule of Law to go out and organize a brand-new opposition organization with which to express their indignation over any of that.

But, Trump! orange-faced, bad-hair, outer-borough-talking Trump! when the likes of Trump has the temerity to impugn the integrity and bona fides of sacred institutions like CNN and the New York Times, when Trump complains of partisan opposition to himself and his policies from within the government, that is carrying things too far! That kind of thing constitutes an outrage too dreadful to be borne. (And an opportunity to receive a lot of “strange, new respect” and approving front page notice from the Times!)

There is no hill a lot of people are willing to die on, but there are certainly hills that some people are eager to pose on.


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