Opinion We should worry what happens if Trump never faces justice, not if he does


HR King
May 29, 2001
NBC News host Chuck Todd asked Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Sunday: “Do you think the country can handle prosecuting a former president?”
The implication seemed to be that Americans should be afraid to hold Donald Trump responsible for the worst betrayal of the public ever committed by a president. Why? Might his supporters start (another) riot? Will Republicans later bring spurious charges against an innocent former president?
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Hogan’s answer started badly. “I’m not sure they can,” he said, apparently meaning some subset of Americans could not tolerate the proper functioning of the judicial system. But he swiftly recovered: “I think, you know, no man is above the law,” Hogan said solemnly. “So if that’s where the facts lead, that’s what has to happen.”

Phew. At least one Republican has the temerity to demand justice, regardless of whatever the violent mob might say about it.

Of course, if the facts and law do not support a conviction, Attorney General Merrick Garland’s choice is no choice at all. He must decline prosecution.

But if charges against Trump are well founded, the notion that Garland should be afraid to indict him for, say, seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to incite a riot or conspiracy to commit fraud against the United States presents a false choice.
Should Garland fear acquittal from a jury unable to process the mound of evidence against Trump? This would suggest the jury system is so corrupt that justice against a powerful, rich White man is impossible.

Is the argument that Americans cannot stomach the idea that “no person is above the law” because holding some individuals in positions of power accountable for their crimes would result in innocent people being prosecuted? Again, one wonders if we should declare democracy’s failure inevitable.


The question the media, politicians and voters should be asking is this: After seeing the compelling evidence that the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection already has presented (with more coming on Tuesday and Thursday), how could we afford not to press charges against Trump? One of the committee’s major accomplishments has been to demonstrate that virtually all the compelling evidence against Trump has comes from his closest associates, demolishing the argument that the investigation is a partisan witch hunt.
Put differently, the Jan. 6 committee presents a case almost entirely dependent on Republican witnesses who had the courage to step forward. To ignore their conscientious effort would tell witnesses in future investigations not to fulfill their obligation to tell the truth and defend the Constitution. Is there anything that could undermine the sanctity of oaths and promote spineless obedience to a lawless president than that?

Consider the nonviolent aspects of the coup plot: Trump’s demand that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” just enough votes to swing the state; the letter that Trump wanted the Justice Department to send to state officials falsely declaring the existence of fraud and soliciting fake electors; the wholly baseless objections to electors raised by members of Congress. Wouldn’t declining to prosecute be seen as ratifying these actions? Even a party with some notion of right and wrong would be tempted to deploy these tactics in the future.
That so many people seem to want to pause before prosecuting the leaders of the insurrection for fear of a violent reaction of retaliation signals that moral nihilism is on the rise. Unless Garland puts aside such political calculation, our democratic system might collapse entirely.