ACLU draws battle lines over Trump win |

ACLU draws battle lines over Trump win

Tom Fontaine
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump speaks to a large crowd at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown on October 21, 2016.
The American Civil Liberties Union website homepage.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s website has a large photo of President-elect Donald Trump on its homepage, with this simple message: “See you in court.”

The ACLU placed a “donate” button beside Trump’s image to solicit money for potential legal fights based on some of his campaign promises.

While Trump has taken a more moderate tone since his stunning election win Tuesday, the ACLU is one of several left-leaning organizations drawing battle lines.

“The new president would be creating a lot more jobs for attorneys if he tried to follow through with everything he promised on the campaign trail. Some of those things are clearly unconstitutional, and some are arguably unconstitutional,” University of Pittsburgh law professor John Burkoff said.

A spokeswoman for Trump did not return messages.

“It’s not unexpected,” Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist based in Harrisburg, said of the ACLU’s actions. “Those are the usual suspects.”

Gerow said throwing up roadblocks just out of political spite could rile the public.

“People are fed up with the gridlock in Washington and folks who are merely intent on gumming up the works,” Gerow said.

In a statement issued about eight hours after Trump’s victory speech, ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero urged Trump “to reconsider and change course on certain campaign promises.” If he does not, Romero said Trump “will have to contend with the full firepower of the ACLU at every step.”

The ACLU, which declined to comment beyond Romero’s statement, employs more than 300 attorneys.

Romero said his organization opposes comments Trump made during the campaign about ousting an estimated 11 undocumented immigrants; restricting the flow of Muslims into the United States and closely monitoring ones who live here; punishing women who get abortions; reauthorizing torture in interrogations; changing libel laws; and restricting free speech.

“These proposals are not simply un-American and wrong-headed, they are unlawful and unconstitutional,” Romero said, arguing that they violate the First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and 14th amendments and various federal and international laws.

Any constitutional battles could ultimately wind up in the Supreme Court, which is comprised of four justices who were appointed by Republican presidents and four by Democrats. Filling a vacancy on the court will be an early priority of Trump’s.

Bruce Ledewitz, a law professor at Duquesne University, said Trump has “studiously adopted a moderate tone” since the election, softening his position on some issues.

Trump said Friday he was willing to keep at least parts of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, in place, including a provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ health plans until age 26 and one that prevents insurers from denying coverage based on a pre-existing medical condition, The Wall Street Journal reported.

During the campaign, Trump originally called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” a religious ban that the ACLU argued would violate the First Amendment. Later, Trump said he would suspend immigration from “terror-prone regions where vetting cannot safely occur,” which legal experts said a president can do by executive order under existing immigration laws.

Beyond the ACLU, the environmental group Friends of the Earth condemned Trump’s vow during the campaign to withdraw from an international pact to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Then, departing from environmental issues, the group’s U.S. climate and energy director Benjamin Schreiber said, “We are committed to fighting President-elect Trump and the xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia and sexism he embodies.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the political action committee Democracy for America, pledged to “obstruct, delay and halt the attacks on people of color, women and working families that will emerge from a Trump administration,” though he did not provide specifics.

Ledewitz said he didn’t find the threats unusual or unique to Trump’s approaching presidency.

“The ACLU sues every administration,” Ledewitz said.

Burkoff estimated that the organization took the Obama administration to court thousands of times.

Something that will be nearly impossible to legally challenge — and could represent an easy, early victory for Trump among his most ardent supporters — is Trump’s proposal to repeal executive orders implemented by President Obama, legal experts said.

“That’s very hard to challenge. The advantage of governing by executive order … is that you can do it quickly and effectively. You can rescind it just as quickly,” Ledewitz said, which would “return you essentially to the policies of the Bush administration.”

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or [email protected].

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.