Monday, August 22, 2022


In The New York Times, Damon Linker argues against prosecuting Donald Trump, saying that it can't possibly end well:
There is no scenario following from the present that culminates in a happy ending for anyone, even for Democrats.

Down one path is the prosecution of the former president. This would be a Democratic administration putting the previous occupant of the White House, the ostensible head of the Republican Party and the current favorite to be the G.O.P. presidential nominee in 2024, on trial. That would set an incredibly dangerous precedent. Imagine, each time the presidency is handed from one party to the other, an investigation by the new administration’s Justice Department leads toward the investigation and possible indictment of its predecessor.
For Democrats, this is different from the past only in degree. While in office, Bill Clinton had to contend with the Paula Jones case, the Whitewater investigation, and the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to impeachment (and that's an incomplete list). Barack Obama faced multiple Benghazi investigations, as well as investigations into the ATF's Fast and Furious program and into supposed targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. Republicans, if they win one or both houses of Congress in the midterms, now promise to spend two years investigating Hunter Biden, various mythical COVID scandals, and Democratic immigration policy. The only difference between all that and Linker's nightmare scenario is that Linker presents the possibility that a Democratic president might go to jail.

Hold that thought. I'll get back to it.

Linker believes we should let the political process decide Trump's fate -- let him run in 2024. He thinks we can tough it out:
But we’ve been through a version of the turbulent Trump experience before. During the Trump years, the system passed its stress test. We have reason to think it would do so again, especially with reforms to the Electoral Count Act likely to pass during the lame duck session following the upcoming midterm elections, if not before.
Linker thinks the guardrails held and will continue to hold. Yet he warns against prosecuting Trump for legitimate crimes because he thinks it will inevitably lead to efforts to prosecute Joe Biden on illegitimate charges. But if the system ultimately works and guardrails are still in place, then why shouldn't Biden's response to the possibility of malicious prosecution be "Bring it on"?

If the system still works, as Linker insists, then we ought to be able to rely on responsible federal judges and juries to recognize the fact that a politicized Trump or DeSantis Justice Depatment has no case against Biden. We ought to be able to trust that non-Republican citizens will recognize the fakery in the government's case, and will turn against the GOP in subsequent elections.

If we can't count on that -- if the system might send Biden to prison even though he's innocent, and voters might not punish the Republican party at the ballot box for prosecutorial malice -- then we have a much larger problem on our hands. In that case, the guardrails aren't holding.

Which means it would be insane to give the GOP -- the party of guardrail destruction -- a free pass right now. The system is already severely damaged. Let's not damage it even more by effectively handing Trump a blanket pardon for all past and future federal crimes.

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