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FAKE45: Trump Administration Illegitimacy Under International Law

The FAKE45 sign in the photo lower right corner appearing on the front page of today’s Washington Post—ironically in front of the Department of Justice headquarters—captures a result of yesterday’s events that may have far-reaching consequences. About 4.5 million people—including a million in Washington DC alone—spontaneously came together from every corner of the nation and world to question the legitimacy of a Trump Administration, express disdain for its actions, and assert the repugnancy of its positions. I was there.

Later that afternoon, Trump at CIA Headquarters “in a despicable display” per the former Agency Director, refuted the very existence of such large protests and eschewed any implications—denouncing the press for reporting it. It is also abundantly clear from Trump’s stated public positions that he rejects the most fundamental concepts of public international law, intends to abrogate many significant international agreements, and retreat back to the 19th century before the existence of the international system of laws and multilateral cooperation. In short, the pronounced policy of his Administration is one of Bully Bilateralism, deceptions, and propagation of mistruth. Lastly, and quite significantly, Trump was installed in his position by documented deceptions and manipulation—losing the democratic vote by a very sizeable margin.

While Trump may be able to hold on to his position and authority within the U.S. for the immediate future, however tenuous within its domestic legal system, his legitimacy and that of his Administration under the international legal system seems open to significant challenges. The U.S. itself for far less has questioned the legitimacy of foreign Administrations who were not democratically elected and clearly do not represent the patent interests of its people. The Trump Administration on its present course does not deserve to be accepted as part of the international community.

As someone who was trained, taught and has practiced international law for many decades in multiple capacities, the pursuit of this subject seems worthy of colleagues at my alma mater—the Washington College of Law—and in the profession worldwide.

Furthermore, those who purport to be part of the Internet Community, need to stop living in a state of denial and doing little or nothing to speak out, much less substantively resist what is occurring. There are many avenues to do so. Responsive actions in international cooperation and organizations are some of them. The Trump Administration as evidenced by the installation speech and hand salute before the Capitol two days ago, and its immediate profound changes to the White House website, is plainly taking the Internet and international cooperation to a dark place.

By Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC

The author is a leader in many international cybersecurity bodies developing global standards and legal norms over many years.

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