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Trump Confronts the International Criminal Court

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Dulles, Virginia – Since taking office, President Trump has secured freedom for dozens of Americans who’ve been unjustly detained by outlaw regimes including the recent release of Michael White who spent nearly two years in an Iranian prison on false charges.


Days later, a Russian court convicted retired Marine Paul Whelan on cooked up charges and sentenced him to 16 years in prison, and many more American lives are in danger if the International Criminal Court (ICC) is left unchecked.

The ICC has authorized an unprecedented investigation of Americans who served as part of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). It is an open-ended inquisition that empowers ICC personnel to examine any allegation or operation that took place in Afghanistan since May 2003. It also allows them to travel to any country that is a state party to the ICC to dig up accusations of war crimes that were purportedly committed since July 2002.

In short, ICC prosecutors have been ordered to find an American scalp, and they have been granted unlimited time and scope to get it.

Not on my watch, President Trump responded. On June 10, the president signed an Executive Order authorizing economic sanctions and travel restrictions against individuals associated with the ICC who conduct and abet investigations of Americans.

The next day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, joined by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Attorney General Bill Barr, and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, explained the importance of the president’s action as necessary to protect members of America’s military, our intelligence officials, and our diplomats, and our national sovereignty.


The president and his team are right to be alarmed by the illegality of the ICC and are justified in the actions they have taken thus far. Here’s why:

The ICC explains that its investigation will “take as long as needed to gather the required evidence.” Then, the court will issue “summonses to appear or warrants of arrest” against “specific individuals” and will pressure nations “to cooperate with the ICC” in enforcing those arrest warrants against Americans. This means U.S. veterans who served in Afghanistan could be in danger of being arrested and detained if they travel outside of the United States to any of the 123 countries that are members of the ICC. For these reasons and many more, the U.S. never joined the court and has repeatedly rejected the ICC’s “authority” to act in this manner.

For those not familiar with it, it’s important to understand that the ICC works differently than the International Court of Justice (ICJ), commonly known as the World Court. The ICJ is a forum for nations to adjudicate differences while the ICC brings charges of war crimes against people – individual citizens. When the ICC pursues Americans, the most likely to be targeted are active duty military, veterans, intelligence personnel, and diplomats. President Trump understands the ICC must be stopped before Americans find themselves serving time in foreign prisons for having served our country.


After Trump signed his executive order, the ICC expressed “profound regret” and complained that the president would be so brazen as to defend his own citizens from a global posse. In response, the ICC says it “stands firmly by its staff and officials,” but expects President Trump to abandon his responsibility to protect our own.

Trump’s message to the ICC is simple: As long as you are trying to destroy the lives of Americans, you’re not allowed to visit Disneyland. By contrast, the ICC suggests the president should roll out the red carpet for their investigators to target members of our military, charge them with war crimes, strip them of their constitutional rights, and expose them to a lifetime prison sentence in a foreign land.

The deliberate targeting of Americans by the ICC is no surprise. When I witnessed the ratification of the Rome Statute at the United Nations headquarters in April 2002, it was obvious this was the goal. The only surprise is that it took this long.

Globalists have long desired an international agency with police and prosecutorial powers that could work around the quaint structures of national sovereignty and ratified constitutions. In 1948, shortly after the UN was formed, the General Assembly asked the International Law Commission (ILC) to study the idea of establishing an “international judicial organ” that could prosecute individuals for the crime of genocide. For many years, the idea germinated with fits and starts but gained traction in the 1990s with the help of the Clinton administration.


President Clinton signed the Rome Statute that created the ICC even as he noted “significant flaws in the treaty.” He cited concerns that the court would “claim jurisdiction over personnel of states that have not [ratified the treaty]” but reassured the American people that the U.S. would fix that problem. Wrong again, sir.

In pursuit of a utopian dream, Bill Clinton exposed our citizens to a dangerous and unconstitutional court. Twenty years later, President Trump is forced to clean up that mess.

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