The Trump Administration Should be Held Accountable for Criminal Conduct By Dave Wulf, LCDP Vice-Chair

By Dave Wulf, LCDP Vice-Chair (Note: the following are excepts taken from a December 9th article by Mike Bebernes)

President-elect Joe Biden will face enormous decisions on how to move the country forward when he takes office on Jan. 20. One of the most significant, and likely contentious, choices will be whether his administration should open criminal investigations into President Trump.

For the past four years, Trump has been shielded from prosecution by the office of the presidency, but those protections go away once he becomes a civilian again. In addition to an existing investigation into potential financial crimes in New York City, legal experts see a number of potential criminal acts for which Trump could be prosecuted at the federal level — including obstruction of justicetax evasionbribery and campaign finance law violations.

During the campaign, Biden said he wouldn’t instruct his Department of Justice to prosecute Trump, but also wouldn’t block it from charging him “if that was the judgment.” More recently, reports suggest Biden’s preference is to “move on” and focus on his plans for the country. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said the DOJ would have “no choice” but to pursue charges against Trump during an interview last year when she was a presidential candidate.

No former president has been prosecuted in American history. 

Why there’s debate

Advocates for investigating and potentially prosecuting Trump say his actions threatened the stability of U.S. democracy and cannot go unpunished. They argue moving on for the sake of national unity would undermine the American ideal that no person is above the law and may set the stage for even more egregious criminality by presidents in the future.

Opponents say prosecuting Trump would set off a partisan circus that would further divide the country and make it impossible for Congress to get anything else done. Biden was elected on a message of healing a fractured nation. To do that, he must resist the pressure from within his party to settle old scores, they say. There are also legal questions as to whether some of Trump’s most controversial acts actually amounted to crimes that would result in federal conviction. State-level cases against Trump may have a much better chance of success, some experts argue.

Others say providing the American people with a full accounting of what actually happened across the entire government over the past four years is more important than pursuing criminal charges against a single person. A truth commission, a body that investigates the full breadth of the Trump administration’s actions but doesn’t necessarily pursue prosecutions, may be the best path forward for the country, they argue.

What’s next

A major element hanging over potential future investigations into the president is the possibility that he may try to pardon himself before he leaves office. Constitutional law experts are split on whether a self-pardon would hold up in court, but if Trump attempted to do so, it would likely set off a lengthy legal battle that would put any federal prosecutions on hold until the issue was resolved.

Perspectives by Supporters

A decades-long pattern of executive corruption must be broken

“Trump’s sordid administration is no break from history but a culmination of corruption indulged for decades. The only way the festering criminality in Washington will end is if the Biden administration breaks with history and holds Trump accountable. A failure to do so is a recipe for a new and even more criminal Trump gaining the White House in the future.” — Jeet Heer, the Nation

Future presidents would see themselves as immune if Trump isn’t punished

“He presided over a spree of self-enrichment and corrupt deal making without parallel in modern American history. To absolve him of his possible crimes would be to normalize his behavior — and set a distressing precedent in American political life for what voters should tolerate from their elected officials.” — Matt Ford, New Republic

The president isn’t above the law

“Although Biden is unlikely to issue a formal pardon to his predecessor, even deliberately ignoring Trump’s crimes would similarly signal that a president is not subject to equal justice under the law.” — Philip Allen Lacovara, Washington Post

Laying out Trump’s misdeeds would weaken his hold over the U.S. electorate

“The wholly committed identify with Trumpism as a cult of power. … The only way to destroy the cults of power is to smash their power. This is one reason why it is so important to prosecute Trump and his family once they are forced out of office. Not just to protect the rule of law but also to clarify the Trumpist cult that the Trump family and their enablers are not, in fact, above consequences.” — David Atkins, Washington Monthly

The American public expects Biden to hold Trump accountable

“Given how laden the Trump years have been with scandals and corruption, it’s been more of a crime scene than a presidency. To ignore all of that would be unconscionable, and Biden would risk alienating many of the 80 million voters who elected him — not to mention members of his own administration.” — Renée Graham, Boston Globe

Investigations must go beyond just Trump

Commentary by Dave Wulf – A host of Trump appointees and close family members should also be investigated for misdeeds. This was the most corrupt Administration in American history. No one is above the law.