The Trump administration is not known for its consistency, but some contradictions are too revealing to ignore.
In nominating Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, President Trump has chosen a jurist who is deeply committed to the Bill of Rights and the rule of law. Kavanaugh — with whom I worked at the White House — is brilliant, meticulous, fair-minded and unfailingly decent. In a saner political climate, a nominee of this temperament, intellect and experience would be confirmed in the Senate with 70 or 80 votes.
Yet: In pardoning Dwight and Steven Hammond, the Oregon ranchers convicted of arson on federal lands, Trump gave his blessing to lawlessness. According to the Justice Department, “Witnesses at [the] trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on [Bureau of Land Management] property. Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out ‘Strike Anywhere’ matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to ‘light up the whole country on fire.’ . . . The fire consumed 139 acres of public land and destroyed all evidence of the game violations.” The Hammonds’ cause had been taken up by right-wing militias. Trump’s pardon effectively sided with the militias in their dispute with the federal government.