Should Trump be criminally prosecuted?

This has come up more and more, with what the Jan. 6 hearings have brought to light. It came up, in passing, on a previous thread. And since I wrote almost 500 words in response, I thought I’d post it separately. Here’s that comment, unedited (except for two misspelled words):

Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to talk about prosecuting presidents. There’s something disturbing, to me, about the idea of a president, duly elected, taking actions consistent with the reasons he was elected, and then being prosecuted because the political winds changed. Sure, the president could be doing things he was NOT elected to do, criminal things, such as happened with Watergate. But I’m not one of those people who get outraged over Jerry Ford pardoning Nixon. Nixon was gone, he was in no way a threat to the country or our politics, and the country needed to move on.

Of course, we have a different situation with Trump. Nixon was fully qualified and suited to the job of president. But he had character flaws that manifested as paranoia, which caused him to do things — behind the curtain — that were wrong. With Trump we have a unique situation, qualitatively different from the situation with anyone else who ever held the office. We have someone who was painfully obviously unsuited to the position, someone who should never, ever have been considered, for even an instant, for such high office. The characteristics that made him unsuitable (and utter lack of any that would have made him suitable) were on clear display 24 hours a day. And it was those characteristics that led quite naturally to the actions for which people talk about prosecuting him.

The way to deal with — that is to say, prevent — this sort of situation is to make absolutely sure that no such individual is ever elected president to begin with. And yet he was, despite his gross defects being fully on display. And almost half of the country voted to <em>re-elect him</em>. And to this day, despite the way his defects exploded in our faces as he went, kicking and screaming, out the door, the Republican Party is in utter bondage to him.

He remains a clear and present danger. Unlike Nixon, from whom Republicans had turned away.

That argues for prosecution, as a way of eliminating the continuing threat to our country. BUT… prosecution implies that once convicted, the almost half of the country that supports him would change their minds, and things would settle down. But that wouldn’t happen, just as it didn’t happen when he was TWICE impeached. His supporters would regard him as a martyr to whatever dark cause made them vote for him in the first place.

And they’d be more ready to attack the Capitol than ever.

As I’ve said before, the problem isn’t Trump. It’s the sickness out in the electorate that caused so many people to vote for him. It’s whatever caused people to vote for someone who, at any previous point in our history, the electorate would have laughed off the stage.

That’s the problem that needs addressing. How, I don’t know. But that’s the problem…

Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia

29 thoughts on “Should Trump be criminally prosecuted?

  1. Pat

    Of course. Trump absolutely should be prosecuted. People died. People have been permanently traumatized. Trump has never been held accountable for anything he has ever done. He and his whole menagerie of seditious traitors should be prosecuted and put away forever.

  2. Mark Stewart

    He must be prosecuted. He attempted a coup of our country when he lost.

    The man is personality disordered. Lot’s of people are, and they cause havoc in their families, social circles and communities – but that’s containable (mostly) by themselves and those around them. However, they don’t get elected President (well, regular Narcissists often do). But Trump’s condition goes way beyond that into someplace dark and malevolent. He is a clear and present danger to our nation and our Constitution. Truly, the only thing that has saved us is he is just not very bright. Maybe the best thing for everyone would be to convict him and sentence him to a mental institution. Remaining free after the events of January 6th would mean the end of our country would be in sight – or at least looming just below the horizon.

  3. bud

    Wow! Talk about overthinking something then completely missing the point. Your inference is that Trump should be prosecuted because he was unqualified for the job. No. That is irrelevant. The ONLY reason he should be prosecuted is if he committed a crime. Therefore the only relevant question is: Did he commit a crime? His qualifications to be president are a subjective consideration by the voters. If the voters say he is qualified then he is qualified. (Of course he/she must be 35 and a natural born citizen).

    So. Did Trump commit a crime? The evidence seems clear that at the very least he actively engaged in a scheme to interfere with a vital government function. There were many actions involved in this scheme and there just isn’t any remaining doubt of Trump’s active involvement. Should Trump be indicted by the justice department and/or state level prosecutors? Yes. Even if he is not likely to be convicted. It is just not likely to find 12 impartial jurors in a country this polarized. Nevertheless justice demands that NO person is above the law.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      No, I didn’t mean to infer or in any other way say that he should be prosecuted because he was unqualified for the job. I said the way to avoid these problems in advance is to avoid electing such people.

      Then I went on to say that the problem is that something has happened to the American electorate, and he WAS elected. And I also suggested that the greater problem for the country is not Trump and what he’s done. It’s the fact that our democratic processes are no longer working.

      It gets more complicated. I also suggested that the fact that Trump is all about the criminal things he did suggests that he MUST be prosecuted, to keep him from re-entering public office.

      But… going back to the problem with what’s happened to the electorate — prosecuting him may do more harm to the country than good, because these people will see him as a martyr, and Jan. 6 will just be a warmup for them.

      For me, at this level, it’s not so much about this or that individual and what he or she “deserves.” It’s about preserving the republic. If we can serve him his just deserts while strengthening the country, great. If we can only do it by destroying the country, we need to think long and hard about it. It’s not a simple matter…

      1. Ken

        “It’s about preserving the republic.”

        And how well is the republic (pre)served by giving a shrug to presidential actions that go beyond Watergate? A republic can die of active or passive indifference, too.

  4. Dave Crockett

    Yes. It’s time to fold up the tent on this political circus of soundbites from both sides. If the Department of Justice feels it has a case, As a private citizen, Mr. Trump should embrace a day in court, allowed to face his accusers, hear the proof of any and all alleged criminal misdeeds and let us all hear both sides in an open venue.

    Roughly half the country won’t like the verdict(s) either way and it won’t be pleasant. But I see no other way to go, given that Congress as a whole cannot seem to act like adults and work with its own tools toward the best interests of the country.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You make a lot of sense, but as for this: “Mr. Trump should embrace a day in court.” Trump should do a LOT of things that he won’t do…

  5. Ken

    He demonstrated corrupt intent repeatedly. He corrupted or attempted to corrupt others as part of a corrupt effort with a corrupt goal: remaining in power illegitimately. How much more corruption is needed? So, yes, arrest, try and hopefully convict him. End of story.

    What his followers do is a SEPARATE matter.
    Don’t try fixing everything before trying to fix one thing.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Maybe not.

      But I’m still trying to figure out where we’re going to lock up all those people when they truly explode.

      You know how much passion has been released on the left by the Dobbs decision — all that talk about how the system is broken and has failed the country, how they have been betrayed by the system?

      The Trumpistas were at that point long ago. Their lack of faith in the rule of law is a bottomless pit. And unlike the angry people defending the former right to an abortion, these are the people who own those 400 million guns out there. Oh, sure, a few million of those guns are owned by non Trump-supporters. But the
      Trumpistas are the ones who lack good sense about what should be done with a gun.

      Of course, I can knock that argument down by saying a country that can’t stand up for the rule of law and prosecute criminals who try to overthrow it is no longer a country that lives by the rule of law I value so much.

      All of this is why the headline of this post was a question, and not a statement. I want to hear ideas…

      1. Bill

        ” Freedom, equality, and dignity are bestowed on all by virtue of being human, made in the image of God.”

      2. Ken

        “You know how much passion has been released on the left by the Dobbs decision — all that talk about how the system is broken and has failed the country, how they have been betrayed by the system?”

        Yes, the Dobbs ruling is a political hydrogen bomb, strong enough to destroy the republic itself. Here’s the letter I sent to John Roberts:

        Dear Mr. Chief Justice,

        Let me put this as simply as I can:

        I have lost faith in the institution you serve. I have held out one thread of hope after another that the Supreme Court could somehow fashion a course that would allow it to maintain its credibility. The last thread of hope has now been broken and I can no longer hold onto the belief that the institution will generally serve the best interests of this country. I have carefully studied our history and its politics — as well as the Court’s history and have read many of the decisions it has handed down. So I do not reach this conclusion out of ignorance.

        Nothing in law or practice has changed since the Court handed down its decision on abortion in 1992 – nothing except the composition of the Court, a composition wrenched into place through illegitimate manipulation. Therefore, the only basis for changing the law on abortion now is naked power. With its decision on abortion (as well as its decision on gun regulation, etc.), the Court has taken a final turn toward reaction and might-makes-right. It has traded in rule of law for rule by strength of numbers and in doing so it has lost its integrity and its credibility.

        Your court seeks to turn back the clock.
        We will break your clock.”

        Those of you who have sought to ban abortion do not know the storm you have stirred up, not only among those of us who will continue to make abortions available, but also in terms of the laws and rights we ALL hold precious. This ruling will cause disruptions and excesses that, in themselves, may undermine the republic you claim to defend.

  6. bud

    That’s the problem that needs addressing. How, I don’t know. But that’s the problem…

    A necessary first step is to get rid of the odious electoral college. In the last 150 years this terribly flawed system has given us some of the worst presidents in American history:

    Rutherford Hayes
    Benjamin Harrison
    George W Bush
    Donald Trump

    The electoral college’s ONLY justification is to prevent terrible people like these from becoming POTUS. And it’s 0 for 4 in doing so. No amount of Federalist bs can justify continuing this utterly awful system. Heck Trump was within 50000 votes of becoming POTUS again because of this horrible anachronism. This in spite of losing by a resounding 7 million votes. It’s time to trust the people, not a bunch of long dead slave owners and duelists.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I know you don’t feel this way, but the Electoral College has only failed us once — with Trump in 2016. That’s the only time it failed in the job of preventing an obviously unqualified candidate with an obviously unsuited character from becoming president.

      That said, that one time is enough to get us to talk about changing it.

      Speaking of changing the system, a more immediate problem is the way Republicans are changing state rules so that it doesn’t matter how people vote. We don’t hear as much as we should about that, because our Identity Politics obsession causes the discussion to focus on measures that might keep minorities from voting.

      But some of the things Republicans are doing go much beyond that, causing it not to matter WHO votes, or HOW they vote…

      Some stories about this:

      What Is the Most Dangerous Part of the Republican Campaign Against Democracy?

      Voter ‘subversion’: Trump Republicans push laws to make it easier to change elections, per report

      The dangerous GOP voting laws change who counts the votes

      Voting Battles of 2022 Take Shape as G.O.P. Crafts New Election Bills

      American democracy is under threat. But what is that threat, exactly?

      1. bud

        The SCOTUS is likely to take up this state legislators deciding elections thing in the fall. It’s really scary. The courts have served as a bit of a backstop against 1 party rule. But this is now under serious threat.

      2. Mark Stewart

        We may have a Constitution next Fourth of July, but it is – now – an open question whether we will have Republic, or any rights.

        Someone should sue the Federalist Society for false advertising. Hamilton would be appalled. Frankly, they should be listed as domestic terrorists. It’s really that serious. And yet we as a nation remain blind, and mute, of the dangers ahead.

        We need a leader who can help heal and unstick the moral ooze, this cancer of Newt.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Eye of Newt and toe of frog,
          Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
          Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
          Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
          For a charm of powerful trouble,
          Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

          I hope Will Shakespeare will forgive me for editing his copy — I capitalized Newt, to make the connection with what Mark said…

  7. Barry

    Sure Trump should be prosecuted. Let the evidence be presented and see what happens in court.

    Then the guy who told millions of his followers repeatedly that other candidates and politicians should go to jail can possibly experience that himself.

  8. bud

    But some of the things Republicans are doing go much beyond that, causing it not to matter WHO votes, or HOW they vote…
    So for the love of God why do you have a Republican yard sign on your lawn???

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I’ll try one more time…

      Because the problems we have now result from the fact that most of the normal, rational, decent Republicans — the people like John McCain and Lamar Alexander and younger counterparts like Micah — have been replaced in primaries by lunatics. And that’s why the Republican Party is now such a threat to the country. So it is absolutely essential to prevent that from happening again, every time we get a chance. And I had a chance like that, and I embraced it…

  9. Bart

    If there is hard, indisputable evidence Trump committed a crime, then by all means, he should be indicted by the legal system and tried as any citizen of this country is entitled to and be allowed to present a defense against the charges. If no hard, indisputable evidence is found or if an indictment is presented and has no better than a 50/50 chance of conviction, then no, he should not be prosecuted. Just as his supporters believe he won the 2020 election, a guilty verdict will only solidify their resolve and the nation will continue along the path of division, anger, and discord. A true sign that the republic and the democracy are coming to an end for this nation.

    With that said, I sincerely hope Trump doesn’t declare for 2024 just as I sincerely hope Biden doesn’t either. The last few elections have not provided us with clear choices of qualified candidates who actually have the best interests of the nation at the center of their campaigns but nothing but lies, distortions, and rabid political agendas according to their particular party affiliation.

    On this day, July 4th, when we should be celebrating the freedoms we enjoy, instead we are treated to a never ending barrage of negativity about how bad our institutions are, how the Constitution should become an obsolete document, how the SCOTUS should be packed according to the wishes of one side or the other, norms and practices in Congress abandoned in order to foment laws and other functions in order to achieve a simple 1 vote advantage to pass a bill.

    In closing, couple more observations.

    Come November, the expected “red wave” will not happen and the anticipation by Republicans of taking Congress will not come to pass. So far, I haven’t been able to find one new Republican running for office who isn’t compromised too much one way or the other and on the Democrat side, they are recognizing the mood of the country and are trying to find more moderate candidates to present as legitimate options. When I watch some of the commentary by the talking heads about the coming red wave, I have to laugh at the overly optimistic rhetoric and “counting chickens before they hatch” mentality. It will be four months before midterms and that in politics is a lifetime. If the recession that is expected doesn’t happen and if inflation flattens out, people will rethink their politics and continue to vote the way they always have. Human nature.

    Next, expect Gavin Newsome to be a strong contender if Biden doesn’t run again. California has always been in the lead for innovations and developments. One of the main problems facing this nation and the world will be food supply and the ability to produce enough to feed us along with protecting the environment. As of today, the governor’s office in California is engaged in studies along with the developers of a soil reclamation and enhancement program with a proven method to enhance, reclaim, re-enrich, and vastly increase food production via a method that does not use chemicals, reuses almost all of the waste products that are not hazardous, increases carbon sequestration by a level of 8 vs. the current level of 2, and a host of other positives for the environment. Plus, the cost of the end product is a fraction of the cost of chemical fertilizers and nutrients currently in use. The other advantage is that farmers and food producers will be able to produce the product on their own land if so inclined. At this point, his office has 2 years to provide the proof necessary and if one considers the political advantages of a successful completion of the program, Newsome will be a very attractive option for too many in this country.

    Just something to consider.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Bart, you seem to equate Trump and Biden — which kind of blows my mind. Especially when you seem to apply this passage to both of them: “lies, distortions, and rabid political agendas.”

      Or maybe I’m reading it wrong…

      1. Doug Ross

        Trump’s a born liar. Biden had to learn how to become an expert liar over the course of decades in public office.

        Neither one should be in office ever again.

      2. Bart

        My comment applies to both parties equally – period, not just Biden and Trump.

        To set the record straight, I am not a Trump or Biden supporter. On a few things, I support Biden just as I supported Trump on a few things. Otherwise, both have or are leading this nation down a dangerous road to failure and relegation to the dustbin of history like so many other nations that rose to glory and then fell from the inside while outside forces cheered on the internal destruction.

        Trump is an egotist, narcissist, and consummate liar on things that are basically insignificant but come across as important to his supporters. He totally failed as a leader when he didn’t step forward and try to stop the riot on January 6th. Instead, he took the wrong path, and it is coming back to literally bite him in the butt. For four years, he had a choice. Be a good leader for the people or for the face looking back at him in the mirror. Unfortunately, he chose the one in the mirror too often and spent hours before audiences basking in the adoration they heaped on him. His overblown sense of self overshadowed anything and everything else even when he actually did some good.

        I no longer reply to anything others post since it would never change a mind or result in a positive engagement. For instance, the overturn of Roe v Wade. It was the right decision and should have never been decided the way it was. The decision was precedent but not sacrosanct since precedent and stare decisis are never cast in stone forever. Both had previously been challenged and overturned. Returning the decision back to individual states was the right one. Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed with the way it was decided, and she was a staunch supporter of choice. Her best friend on the bench was Scalia and they were direct opposites on many issues, but they demonstrated the ability to maintain a long-lasting friendship and mutual respect. Something that does not exist by the majority on this blog as it once did.

        Other rights established in the Constitution have been upheld and withstood any and all challenges because they were specifically addressed, not determined by stretching the intent and content of another amendment as the 14th was in the Roe v Wade original decision. Using the time period for passage of the 14th Amendment, the following is from the Harvard Journal of Law at the time.

        ” The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (Vol 40, No. 2) states, “By the time of the Fourteenth Amendment’s adoption, nearly every State had criminal legislation proscribing abortion and most of these were classified among ‘offenses against the person.’”

        Therefore, stare decisis and precedent had been clearly established by almost every state at the time of the ratification of the 14th Amendment and subsequently, all states at one time had prohibition against abortions. In a stretch of the definition of “liberty”, the court decided that an abortion was a “right” under the definition of “liberty”. I have the right to speak my mind as anyone else has but I have no inherent right to yell “fire” in a crowded theater unless there is an actual fire and people are unaware and in danger.

        Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a brilliant jurist, and her life and work is to be celebrated. While she was a strong supporter of a woman’s right to abortion, she had her doubts and expressed them very well.

        An excerpt from a Newsweek article, 5/3/2022.

        “Speaking to The New York Times in September 2020, Mary Hartnett, a law professor at Georgetown University who co-wrote the Ginsburg biography My Own Words, said Ginsburg believed “it would have been better to approach it under the equal protection clause” so Roe v. Wade would be less vulnerable to attempts to have it disbarred.

        “Roe isn’t really about the woman’s choice, is it?” Ginsburg told the University of Chicago Law School in May 2013. “It’s about the doctor’s freedom to practice…it wasn’t woman-centered, it was physician-centered.”

        Ginsburg also expressed concerns in the 1992 NYU lecture that the sweeping nature of Roe v. Wade should have originally focused on striking down a Texas law that “intolerably shackled a woman’s autonomy” by only allowing abortion to be performed if the mother’s life is in danger.

        “Suppose the Court had stopped there, rightly declaring unconstitutional the most extreme brand of law in the nation, and had not gone on, as the Court did in Roe, to fashion a regime blanketing the subject, a set of rules that displaced virtually every state law then in force,” Ginsburg said.

        “Would there have been the twenty-year controversy we have witnessed, reflected most recently in the Supreme Court’s splintered decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey? A less encompassing Roe, one that merely struck down the extreme Texas law and went no further on that day, I believe and will summarize why [it] might have served to reduce rather than to fuel controversy.”

        The decision is now in the hands of the states as intended and there will be states that outright ban abortions and others that will allow an abortion up to the moment of birth and in some instances, after the child has cleared the birth canal. If the issue is to be settled by a federal law or once again, in front of the SCOTUS, it needs to be based on solid footing according to the Constitution. Otherwise, the practice will continue to be a divisive one and for me personally and not speaking for others, it is an inhumane act against a growing human being that cannot control its own fate, but it is left in the hands of the mother. No, I won’t use the term, “birthing person”.

        Disagree if you will but that is what this blog was intended to be, a platform for reasonable discussion and debate.

    2. Barry

      “On this day, July 4th, when we should be celebrating the freedoms we enjoy, instead we are treated to a never ending barrage of negativity about how bad our institutions are”

      This is not wrong

      However, at one time when he was starting out, I use to listen to Rush Limbaugh blast “our institutions” while he was growing an audience of millions of people. Not only did he “blast them,” he parodied them for profit.

      Of course, Limbaugh was usually singing the praises of Reagan who ran against many of those institutions simply for votes – because Reagan trusted and relied on those institutions a lot more than his supporters did – and his rhetoric suggested. But he unleased the tiger out of the cage.

      I listened and watched for years where typical citizens (usually white, older citizens) slowly adopted a political stance that the government was terrible, the system was terrible, and everything the government did was awful (except make weapons that could kill a lot of people).

      Now we have Liberals adopting some of these views and the right wingers on Fox and right wing talk radio or complaining that Liberals don’t trust our institutions. The hypocrisy is unbelievable.

      It’s like mom talking about how terrible dad is in front of their child for years, and then one day mom doesn’t understand why their child doesn’t want to have anything do with dad.


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