Op-ed: Supreme Court Creates Their Own Nazi Enabling Act

Op-ed: Supreme Court Creates Their Own Nazi Enabling Act

A view of the US Supreme Court on July 1, 2024, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew ANGERER / AFP) (Photo by DREW ANGERER/AFP via Getty Images)

By Winter Trabex

July 9, 2024

Criminal Acts

On Feb. 14, Special Counsel Jack Smith, in charge of prosecuting former president Donald Trump for his role in the events leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021, asked the Supreme Court to “move quickly” to decide whether the president had immunity from prosecution for acts he did as president.

Smith had brought a case that was several years in the making. The congressional Jan. 6 committee gathered evidence and heard testimony from former employees of Trump, as well as election workers and police officers present at the scene. Video was shown of the riot in which Trump supporters attacked police officers, destroyed private property, trespassed into private offices, and erected a gallows to execute Mike Pence by hanging.

The committee’s findings suggest all of this came at the urging of Trump. He had been saying for months leading up to Jan. 6, a day on which the presidential election results would be certified by Congress, that the election was stolen. The process was rigged. He could not understand the voting process, hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, would take longer than usual.

When Biden won, Trump refused to accept the election results. He devised a fake elector scheme to replace the duly selected electors. He asked the Georgia secretary of state to find 11,780 votes for him so he could win the state. He asked Mike Pence to intercede on his behalf, which Pence refused. Afterwards, hearing this news, Trump’s followers hung a noose outside the US Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Shortly afterward, he was impeached for a second time during his four-year presidency. The Senate did not bring a trial forth, because Trump would be leaving office within two weeks. Instead of barring Trump from running for office again, the Senate let the clock run out.

Now, three and a half years later, with a multitude of evidence about Trump’s acts- and his inaction- regarding Jan. 6, no jury has had a chance to weigh evidence and decide whether Trump was guilty of the crimes the government alleges against him. Judge Aileen Cannon, who Trump appointed, has acted in a largely partisan manner, effectively ruling on the side of the defendant.

The Supreme Court did not move quickly, as Smith requested. It took them until July 1st to bring a ruling on whether Trump had immunity from prosecution. Their decision echoed a law that turned Adolf Hitler from a duly elected official to a dictator within the space of three months.

The Enabling Act

Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933, several years after spending time in prison for his role in a failed coup d’etat called the Beer Hall Putsch. While in prison, he wrote his manifesto Mein Kampf, which had an inordinate number of antisemitic passages in it.

The communists of the day also drew Hitler’s particular ire. The Reichstag Fire at the end of February 1933 served as a pretext for Hitler to persecute communists in Germany by ransacking their offices and arresting their members. Hitler framed the fire as being the first step as part of a communist revolution.

Historians such as William Shirer, who wrote the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, suggested the burning was a Nazi plot in which Marinus Van der Lubbe, a known Dutch communist, was used as a scapegoat by the Nazi Party, who planned the event themselves in order to increase their own power while decreasing those of the communists.

In November 1932, communists had won seats in the country’s general election. By the end of March 1933, the party was a non-factor in German politics, if it existed at all.

The Enabling Act of 1933, called “the Law to Remedy the Distress and People of the Reich,” effectively did away with Germany’s system of checks and balances. The Reichstag Fire Decree had already abolished the right to due process, to protest, to speak freely, and to assemble. The Enabling Act allowed the German chancellor to do whatever he pleased without consequence.

His first task was the elimination of his enemies and rivals. He did this by creating his first concentration camp in Dachau, where he sent local labor leaders, dissidents, and communists. This culminated in the Night of the Long Knives in the summer of 1934 in which Hitler had his opponents within the Nazi Party- or those he viewed as such- murdered.

By this time, the Nazi Party’s power in Germany was absolute. The Enabling Act was renewed twice more to let Hitler continue doing what he wanted. Only an invasion by allied forces in World War II put an end to Nazi Germany. Hitler never stepped down from his position as chancellor of his own accord, even in the face of multiple failed assassination attempts.

Had there been a legal mechanism to hold Hitler accountable for the Dachau arrests, his dictatorship might have been prevented. Had the country of Germany realized that their leader had been convicted in a court of law for trying to overthrow his country’s leadership by force, they might have acted differently.

The consequences of the Enabling Act of 1933 were disastrous. When Hitler got the chance to do whatever he wanted, he left six million dead in his concentration camps and many more dead on the battlefields he created through invasion of foreign territory.

Nothing and no one would stop Hitler’s ambition. He refused to accept any other result but victory.

The Acts Yet to Come

So long as the Supreme Court’s decision regarding presidential immunity isn’t reversed by Constitutional Amendment or another Court decision, the president of the United States now has license to do whatever he pleases without fear of being criminally prosecuted for doing so. 

There’s nothing to stop Joe Biden from arresting any Republican he doesn’t like, because he wouldn’t be prosecuted for it. There’s nothing to stop Donald Trump from arresting any Democrat he doesn’t like, because he also wouldn’t be prosecuted if he attained the presidency. 

There would also be no accountability for a president who committed war crimes, who committed murder, who stole classified documents while in office, or who used the power of his office to abolish habeas corpus. No matter what violation of the law a president might make, there’s no mechanism to hold him accountable for doing so.

While Joe Biden has said he will respect the power of the presidency and limit himself within the scope afforded to him by existing laws, there’s nothing saying the next Democrat or Republican after him will do so. The next president of either party, in 2028, may decide they’ve had enough of contending against their opponent, and just create a concentration camp for people he doesn’t like.

It happened before. It may happen again.


  • Winter Trabex

    Winter Trabex is a freelance reporter who has been living in Manchester since 2016. She primarily works for Manchester Ink Link, but also takes odd jobs with the Associated Press. She covers politics, economics, homelessness issues, and women's tackle football.

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