Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, November 17, 2020 5:51 pm

There must be prison


If President-elect Joe Biden doesn’t appoint an attorney general who is inclined to investigate and prosecute at least the biggest crimes of the Trump administration, then he is being derelict in his duty.

Donald Trump has committed so many crimes — not just impeachable offenses, but outright crimes — in broad freakin’ daylight that it seems impossible to consider that perhaps he shouldn’t be investigated and prosecuted for them once he leaves office.

But apparently it’s not impossible for Joe Biden to consider. NBC News reported today that Biden has told aides that he’s concerned that investigations would divide the country, but that he would leave decisions up to an independent Justice Department.

On the one hand, this was predictable, given how Biden campaigned as a uniter and not a divider. And, sure, everyone wants to dial down the partisanship a little, right?

But on the other hand, OH COME ON.

I can’t believe we’re even having to say this, but, hell, YES, he should be criminally investigated, prosecuted if probable cause is found, and sent to prison if convicted. Biden says he wants the Justice Department to be independent — and that’s good! But if he doesn’t appoint an attorney general who is inclined to investigate and prosecute at least the biggest crimes of the Trump administration, Biden, who as president has a constitutional duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,” is being derelict in his duty.

Here’s the thing: For 50 years, we have been letting criminal Republicans off the hook. What do we have to show for these 50 years of letting GOP criminals off? More and worse GOP criminals. The normalization of everything from political dirty tricks to torture and treason. And a republic that was at the edge of the abyss before Biden beat Trump and is still one hell of a long way from out of the woods. If we are to avoid anything like a Trump administration again, which everyone who believes in democracy thinks would be a good thing to do, then we must punish Trump and his minions.

The sins of Donald Trump and his minions have been so many, varied and spectacular that if I were to list them all I’d be writing this blog post for the rest of my life. Just for starters, let’s look at the stuff he did right out in the open, like permanently separating immigrant children from their parents at the border — at least 666 that we know of. I am not a lawyer, but that appears to me to constitute one form of genocide under the U.S. genocide statute, 18 USC 1091(a)(6). And it’s not just Trump who is culpable; other investigative targets should include Alex Azar, then and now Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Kirstjen Nielsen, then Secretary of Homeland Security, as well as Trump White House aide Stephen Miller, who has been reported as being behind the separation plan.

In addition, federal prosecutors in Manhattan named “Individual-1,” later identified as Trump, as an unindicted co-conspirator in the conspiracy to violate election law by funneling hush money to Stormy Daniels. Currently, a Watergate-era Justice Department policy precludes indictment of a sitting president, but that protection evaporates once Trump leaves office Jan. 20.

Vol. 2 of the Mueller Report indicated that Trump obstructed justice up to 10 times during the investigation. Indeed, Special Counsel Robert Mueller made it clear that if not for that Justice Department policy, he would have indicted Trump on a number of those counts. (Some more clearly include all three statutorily defined elements of the crime than others.)

And those are just what is out in the open. Subjects crying out for either new or renewed criminal or counterterrorism investigation include the 2016 Trump campaign’s relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Trump’s finances, of which the little that has come to light has suggested the possibility of tax fraud, bank fraud (or both), and conspiracy. Trump’s former CFO cooperated with the Mueller investigation and is now cooperating with state and local prosecutors in New York.

It’s not just that the crimes themselves are bad, although they are. Trump’s entire administration was full of grifting (almost $200 million in tax money to his resorts for golf alone), and he ran the government not like a chief executive, but like a mobster. Every relationship was purely transactional, with nothing undertaken in the nation’s best interests. He didn’t even try to govern in the interests of states that had not voted for him in 2016.

The reason that prosecution would be so symbolically important is that it would send the signal that that’s not how you faithfully execute the office of president — and that no one else should try it ever again.

Joe Biden also would be wise to ponder his decision in the context of the 2022 midterms. Voters in the 2018 midterms indicated strongly that they wanted Trump held accountable, and a majority of Americans approved his impeachment earlier this year. If Biden doesn’t at least look like he’s trying to seek justice for Trump’s crimes, a lot of the Democratic base will sit home in 2022, just as they did in 2010, with disastrous results for the party, for the country as a whole, and for many states. They shouldn’t — I get it; it would be stupid and self-destructive — but they probably will.

Finally, if Trump and at least some of his minions do not go to prison for their crimes, then the country will be admitting that we are no longer a nation under the rule of law. And if we’re not that, then what good are we?

4 Comments

  1. Good piece. We can’t continue to excuse criminal behavior in the name of “unity”. It’s not an excuse it’s permission to continue.

    Comment by Dave Reed — Tuesday, November 17, 2020 6:05 pm @ 6:05 pm

    • Hear, hear.

      Comment by Lex — Tuesday, November 17, 2020 10:00 pm @ 10:00 pm

  2. There is nothing Joe Biden can do to help The Divided States of America. It is a country – and a socio-politico-economic system – that is broken beyond repair, as its foundation documents and institutions are no longer fit for purpose, and have led its people to fragment into rationalists and wilfully ignorant fear- and hate-mongers. There will be no uniting those two sides. The best Biden can do while presiding over the continued decline of the DSA is, as you say, to prosecute high crimes and misdemeanours, and show the rest of the world that, for the moment, some laws still do apply, despite the inexorable decline of the country.

    Comment by Blair Pethel — Wednesday, November 18, 2020 2:55 am @ 2:55 am

    • I fear you are right, Blair — I think some of the land mines the Framers placed in the Constitution to appease the slavers are finally going off, irreparably.

      Comment by Lex — Wednesday, November 18, 2020 5:56 am @ 5:56 am


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