Yes, Prosecute Trump

In yesterday’s New York Times, Andrew Weissmann, a senior prosecutor in Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s devious 2016 presidential campaign and its relationship to Russia, argued that the next Attorney General has a responsibility to investigate Donald Trump and, if necessary, prosecute him for any federal crimes identified.

Key quotes: “I do not come to this position lightly. We do not want to turn into an autocratic state, where law enforcement authorities are political weapons of the reigning party. But that is not sufficient reason to let Mr. Trump off the hook. Mr. Trump’s criminal exposure is clear.”

“Being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law.”

Of course, we all know that Trump will make every attempt to pardon himself, including (in my opinion), if he is told he can’t self-pardon, resigning early in order to allow a “President Pence” to issue the pardon.

For his part, President-elect Joe Biden feels his administration should simply forget about Trump and let the states pick up the mantle of investigations (which aren’t effected by a presidential pardon).  His administration will have too much to focus on, he says, with the pandemic and its horrible destruction of our economy. 

I understand the argument, however I disagree with it whole-heartedly.  Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in the history of our nation, far and away.  He overtakes the likes of Andrew Johnson, Warren Harding, and Richard Nixon by hundreds of proverbial wide miles.   

A brief list of Trump’s criminal activity includes (but is far from limited to):

Tax Fraud – The New York Times earlier this year reported multiple instances of tax crimes on the part of Trump and his business dealings, including passing money off to his children without reporting it, and criminal activity around listing multiple personal properties as investment properties. Moreover, his company deducted $747,622 in “consulting fees” for various hotel projects. Meanwhile, a consulting company co-owned by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, paid her exactly the same amount (!!).  And I am quite sure investigators would unearth multiple crimes related to the millions of dollars in consulting fees that were paid to unknown people.
Bank and Insurance Fraud – Reports are that Trump provided banks and insurance companies with false information about his financial situation in order to receive lower interest rates on loans and lower insurance premiums.
Campaign Finance Law Violations – The $130,000 hush payment to his porn-star mistress, Stormy Daniels, is just the iceberg of the crimes committed here. Investigators are keen to look into a $10 million loan Trump made to his campaign in the last days of the 2016 presidential campaign.  A loan he made after receiving what is likely an illegal payment of $21 million from business partners in Las Vegas – illegal if, as is likely, it was made for no legitimate purpose.
Bribery – As president, Trump has most likely violated bribery laws by keeping up his normal sleazy business dealings around the world.  And God only knows what sort of threats international leaders received if they even tried to stay at any DC hotel property that didn’t have the name Trump above the door (and likely charged highly inflated room rates at those Trump properties).
Obstruction of JusticeOne thousand former federal prosecutors stated that if Trump were not president, his conduct as described by the Mueller Report, would “result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.” 

Frankly, I would add Negligent Homicide to this list.  Trump’s horrid, irresponsible, and incompetent handling (or, really, lack thereof) of the COVID-19 crisis is, as I said in my endorsement of Joe Biden earlier this month, directly responsible for a tremendous majority of the 266,000 COVID-related deaths in the United States to date.

Finally, let’s not forget the Authoritarian bent of Trump’s presidency.  He has checked each of the ten markers for that dangerous, far-right political ideology:

Taking sides with a foreign power against domestic opposition.
Detention of journalists.
Loss of press access to the White House.
Made-up charges against those who disagree with the government.
Use of governmental power to target individual citizens for retribution.
Use of a terrorist or other incident to take away civil liberties.
Persecution of an ethnic or religious minority, either by the Administration or its supporters.
Removal of civil service employees for insufficient loyalty or membership in a suspect group.
Use of the Presidency to incite popular violence against individuals or organizations.
Defying the orders of courts, including the Supreme Court.

If federal or state investigations lead to criminal charges which in turn lead to prosecution, my belief is that so much would pour out about this man’s absolute desire to obtain and retain power for power’s sake, and that testimony from witnesses would overwhelming show his attempts to subvert the Constitution in efforts to impose a sort of dictatorial form of government on the United States. 

The list of probable crimes and the authoritarian checklist… no lawmakers of any political stripe, of any political office, should opt for reasons of political expediency to ignore Donald Trump in the name of turning the American page.  This is a dangerous man who almost destroyed the United States of America, and may still if we don’t completely kill the ideology by by cutting off the orange, spray-tanned head. 

Barack Obama made a huge mistake, in my opinion, for not letting his government prosecute George W. Bush administration officials for the war crimes they committed in Iraq.  The new Democratic administration needs to pay attention to Mr. Weissmann: “Being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law.”

The precedent that would be set in not prosecuting Trump would green light this sort of behavior in future administrations; and before we know it, likely in our lifetimes, the “American experiment” of a constitutional democratic republic form of government will come to an end.