Dear Mr. President: Words Have Consequences

Americans have a First Amendment right to say pretty much whatever they want. But, with the right to say practically whatever you want comes responsibility. Donald Trump should have considered this before he took to the national stage and filled the airways with bile and hatred.  While he undoubtedly had the right to say what he said, his prior comments are preventing him from implementing the promises that got him elected.

On the campaign trail Trump promised a Muslim ban. And, during his first days if office he crafted an executive order which sought to fulfill this campaign promise. It was blocked by the courts, as was a subsequent executive order attempting to achieve the same end. In blocking Trump’s orders, courts relied on statements made by him and his advisers Stephen Miller and Rudy Giuliani.

Trump made countless statements on the campaign trail that he was going to ban Muslims from the country. Miller said publicly that the second ban was going to be functionally the same as the first, and Giuliani spoke about a conversation he had with the president in which Trump asked him how to fashion a legal Muslim ban. Courts have considered all of these statements in blocking both executive orders that sought to restrict visitors from a number of predominately Muslim countries. Why? Because courts are allowed, in fact they are required, to consider why laws are made. In other words, a judge who ignored the context in which these executive orders were made would not be doing their job.

The Trump administration claimed the executive orders were intended to make this country safer. A judge is required to evaluate that statement – not to just take it on faith. Any judge doing their job would consider the statements made by Trump, Miller and Giuliani and conclude the executive orders were intended to prevent people, Muslim people specifically, from entering the country. This violates the First Amendment, as that amendment also protects Freedom of Religion.

At a March 2016 rally in Kentucky, Trump drew protesters. During the rally Trump said “get ‘em out of here” repeatedly. Trump supporters proceeded to shove and punch the protesters. The protesters filed a lawsuit against Trump for their injuries. In the suit, they claimed Trump incited the violence against them with his repeated entreaties. Trump’s lawyers moved to dismiss the suit. The judge refused to do so, agreeing with the plaintiff’s that Trump’s statements were, indeed, an incitement of violence. Words that incite violence are not protected by the First Amendment. Trump’s statements could have been interpreted by his supporters as an order to forcibly remove the protesters. That’s illegal.

Trump is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with celebrity chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and Jose Andres. The two chefs had a deal to open a restaurant in Trump’s new hotel in D.C. A deal they refused to honor after Trump’s statements on the campaign trail calling Mexicans rapists and murders. Andres, an immigrant from Spain, closed all of his U.S. restaurants on February 16 the “Day Without Immigrants” in protest of Trump and his comments.

Trump insiders are aware of the problem. After Trump’s statements about Mexicans an Andres representative emailed Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. Another Trump representative, in an internal communication wrote:

Ugh… This is not surprising and would expect that this will not be the last we hear of it. At least for formal, prepared speeches, can someone vet going forward? Hopefully the Latino community does not organize against us more broadly in DC / across Trump properties.

Both Andres and Zakarian argue in their lawsuits that Trump’s anti-Mexican comments “essentially torpedoed” the restaurants. They said Hispanics would be unwilling to work at the restaurants and Hispanophiles would neither work nor eat there. The suits are currently working their way through the courts.

The pen is mightier than the sword. This oft cited passage is both a warning and an acknowledgement of the extraordinary power of words. It’s why the First Amendment, the amendment that protects Freedom of Speech, exists. And it’s why, throughout the history of this country, courts have gone to great lengths to protect the right of citizens to free speech.

The judges presiding over these and countless other pending lawsuits involving Trump have one thing in common. They took an oath to defend the constitution. Judges have spent years studying and writing about the constitution. They have dedicated their professional lives to this one document and the principles it protects. Sure, different judges interpret it differently, but there’s probably not a judge in this country who does not believe in the importance of protecting the Constitution. Trump, on the other hand, either doesn’t understand the Constitution, or doesn’t care about it. He doesn’t seem to appreciate that the same laws that allowed him to make the statements he did on the campaign trail are going to be used to ensure he doesn’t violate other peoples’ rights.

Trump is a public figure. His rhetoric got him elected because it appealed to a certain segment of society. That same rhetoric may prove his undoing when it comes to implementing policy.  Xenophobic, racist and sexist policies may sound good to some on the campaign trail, but the truth is such policies are an affront to the Constitution.