Opinion | Donald Trump Is Not Above the Law

Over the course of this summer, the nation has been tipped off by House select committee hearings on the events of January 6, 2021, and how or whether Donald Trump might be subject to responsibility for what happened that day or not. The Justice Department remained largely silent about its investigations into the former president until this month, when FBI searched his home in Palm Beach, Fla., in a case involving the handling of classified documents. The sight of a former president facing a criminal investigation raises profound questions about American democracy, and these questions demand answers.

Mr. Trump’s unprecedented attack on the integrity of American democracy requires a criminal investigation. The disturbing details of his post-election misconduct, meticulously assembled by the January 6 committee, leave little doubt that Mr. Trump has sought to subvert the Constitution and reverse his will. will of the American people. The president, defeated at the 2020 polls, has tried to enlist federal law enforcement agencies, state officials and the nation’s election system administrators in an effort angry to maintain power. When all else failed, he incited an armed mob to storm the Capitol and threaten lawmakers.

The Ministry of Justice is reported Trump’s conduct test, consists of his role in trying to overturn the election and bring it home secret file. If Attorney General Merrick Garland and his staff conclude that there is enough evidence to establish Mr. Trump’s serious crimes in court of law, they must also indict him.

This board recognizes that in deciding how Mr. Trump should be held accountable under the law, consideration must be given not only to whether criminal prosecution will be brought, but also whether it is possible. be wise or not. No US president has been criminally prosecuted after leaving office. When President Gerald Ford pardon Richard Nixon, he assured that Nixon would not be prosecuted for the crimes committed in the Watergate scandal; Ford explained the decision with the warning that such prosecution poses a serious risk of incitement.”ugly passion“And exacerbated political polarization.

That warning was as prominent as it is today. Pursuing the prosecution of Mr Trump could garner more support for him and play into the conspiracy theories he has sought to perpetuate. It could intensify partisan divisions, even to the point of civil unrest. A trial, if deemed illegitimate, can also further undermine trust in the rule of law, regardless of the eventual outcome.

The risks of political escalation are clear. Democrats and Republicans have been in a cycle of retribution that can last generations. There is a significant risk that, if the Justice Department indicts Mr. Trump, future presidents – whether Mr. Trump himself or someone of his – could misuse precedent to punish political opponents. If their party wins a majority in the House after the midterm elections, some Republicans have threatened to impeach President Biden.

There is even an immediate threat of violence, and sadly Americans should prepare for it. Within hours of federal agents starting court-approved search Trump’s Palm Beach residence, based on an order investigating possible violations of three federal laws, including one that regulates the handling of defense information under the Espionage Act, heat advocates say. His most successful has escalated their rhetoric with war language. As The Times noted“The broad, positive response is arguably the clearest outbreak of violent public rhetoric since the days leading up to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.”

Mr. Garland has been thoughtful, methodical, and prudent in leading the Justice Department’s investigations into the January 6 attacks and the delivery of documents to the Trump home. But no matter how careful he is or how measured the prosecution is, there is a real and substantial risk from those who believe that any criticism of him Trump is justifying an extreme response.

However, the risk is much greater to do nothing when action is called for. In addition to letting Mr Trump escape punishment, doing nothing to hold him accountable for his actions in the months before January 6 could set an irresistible precedent for politicians. future president. Why not try to stay in power in any way necessary or use the power of office to enrich yourself or punish your enemies, knowing that the law does not apply to presidents in office. or out of term?

More importantly, democratic government is an ideal that must constantly be turned into reality. America is not upheld by a set of principles; it is upheld by resolute action to defend those principles.

Immediately after the January 6 uprising, cabinet members reported debate whether to remove Trump from power under 25th Amendment authority. A week after the attack, House Impeach Trump for the second time. This editorial board support his impeachment and dismissal; We also suggest that former presidents and legislators involved in the January 6 plot could be permanently barred from holding office under a 14th Amendment provision that applies to any official have “participated in insurrection or rebellion” or received “aid or comfort” for those who have done so. But most Republicans in the Senate refuse to convict Mr. Trump, and Congress has yet to invoke that part of the 14th Amendment against him. As a result, the threat that Mr. Trump and his most fervent supporters pose to American democracy has spread.

Even now, the former president continues to spread lies about the 2020 election and accuses Vice President Mike Pence of not breaking the law on his behalf. Meanwhile, Dozens of people believe Trump’s lies running for state and national elective office. Many won, some of them elevated to positions that gave them control over how elections were conducted. In June Republican Party in Texas approved measures in its platform claimed that Mr. Biden’s election was illegitimate. And Mr. Trump seems prepared to start a Bidding for the second term is the president.

Mr. Trump’s actions as a public official, unlike others since the Civil War, have struck at the heart of our system of government. He used the power of his office to subvert the rule of law. If we hesitate to call those actions and their perpetrators criminals, we are saying that he is above the law and gives future presidents a license to do whatever they want.

In addition to the Justice Department’s federal investigation, Mr. Trump is facing a swirl of civil and criminal liability in some other cases: a lawsuit by the attorney general for the District of Columbia over payments made during his inaugurations; a criminal investigation in Westchester County, NY, into taxes on one of his golf courses; a criminal case in Fulton County, Ga., for interference in the 2020 election; a criminal case by the Manhattan district attorney over the valuation of Mr. Trump’s property; and a civil investigation by the New York attorney general into Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization.

Specific crimes the Justice Department may consider may be related to Mr. Trump’s fraud efforts to get election officials in Georgia, Arizona and other places to declare him a winner even though he lost their states; to help Mr. Pence, in congress certify the election on January 6, remove the electors from the states he lost, and replace them with electors loyal to Mr. Trump; and to enlist the officials from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense to convince officials in certain states to swing the election with him and ultimately stir up a mob to attack the Capitol. The government could also charge Mr. Trump with ambitious conspiracy, a serious charge federal prosecutors have brought against the leaders of far-right militia groups that took part in the invasion. Capitol Palace.

The committee hearings make it clear: Mr. Trump certainly knew he was at the center of a frenzied, sprawling, and deliberate fraud effort that led directly to the siege of the Capitol. For hours, Mr. Trump refused to call out from the crowd.

Testimony from hundreds of witnesses, many of them senior Republican officials from his administration, shows Trump’s relentless efforts, which began months before Election Day and continued. continued until January 6, to sow doubt about the election, refuse to accept the results of that election and then to pursue what he must know are illegal and unconstitutional means to turn it upside down. Many participants searched pardon first for their behavior – a sign they know they are breaking the law.

Other evidence points to other crimes, such as obstruction of the National Assembly, which are defined as corrupt practices that obstruct the “correct administration of the law”. The fake electoral college plan that Mr. Trump and his associates promoted before January 6 seems to meet this definition. That could explain why at least three of Trump’s campaign lawyers are reluctant to participate in the plot. The people involved in it have been told not “legal” by the White House attorneys, but they continued with it.

Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to Mr. Trump’s last Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, provided strong evidence that could be used to charge Mr. Trump with an ambitious conspiracy. In her public testimony at the January 6 hearing, she said Mr. Trump was told that many of the crowd of supporters waiting to hear him speak on Ellipse that day were armed. gas but he asked them to be allowed to omit the metal. detectors have been installed for his security. “They’re not here to hurt me,” he said, According to Mrs. Hutchinson. “Let my men in. They can march to the Capitol from here.”

If Mr. Garland decides to pursue prosecution, one message the Justice Department must send early and often is that even if Mr. Trump truly believes, as he has claimed, that the election was marred by fraud, Mr. fraud, his schemes to interfere with certification. votes would still be a crime. And even if Mr. Trump’s efforts fail, these efforts will still be crimes. More than 850 other Americans have been charged for their role in the Capitol attack. Good intentions did not protect them from the consequences of their actions. It would be unfair if Mr. Trump, who inspired them, faced no consequences.

No one should rejoice at the prospect of this or any former president facing criminal prosecution. Mr Trump’s actions have brought shame to one of the world’s oldest democracies and destabilized its future. Not even justice before the law can erase that stain. Trump’s prosecution will also not fix the structural problems that have led to the biggest crisis in American democracy since the Civil War. But it is a necessary first step to do so.

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