Will Donald Trump one day be held accountable in court?
Almost a year ago, even before the alleged insurgency and assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, I wrote a song asking if President Donald Trump should face prosecution when he leaves office, noting that a limited prosecution focused on the most serious criminal charges would give him his day in court.
I also wrote that this would be the only surefire way to prove or disprove allegations of wrongdoing, with all due process available to the accused, but reinforced by admissible factual evidence that would be fully transparent to the public.
I recognized that whether this would happen was a very real question, given the desperate need to unify the nation, tame the pandemic, end racial disparities, combat the scourge of disinformation, and heal our divisions. We could add the political need of President Joe Biden to get things done in Congress to accelerate the economic recovery and move the country forward. However, there was, and still is, a pressing need to ensure that no one is above the law, not even a former president.
Now, after another year of endless investigations at all levels of government, without a grand jury summoned to directly consider the charges against Trump and without an indictment on any charges, I am compelled to consider the very real possibility that this will never happen, that the only slight measure of liability, if any, will be at the polls in 2022 and 2024. Justice delayed is justice denied.
More from Robert Mounts:
After CNN’s spooky account of Trump’s overt attempt to overturn the election and incite a Jan.6 insurgency, titled “Trumping Democracy,” as the few upright Republicans willing to talk about it put it, I’m afraid that only the tribunal of public opinion, and perhaps historians, will one day settle the question.
The truth is that any criminal trial involving the former president would be a circus to beat all circuses. His lawyers would use all possible means to delay, hinder and thwart such a lawsuit. Trump would find his Roy Cohn. Finding a jury would be a gigantic task; Is there anyone in America without a firm opinion, for or against?
If you thought January 6 brought the crazy people out, can you imagine what the Proud Boys and other violent extremists would do to try to end the trial? Prosecutors, witnesses (and their families) would face death threats and personal attacks, beyond anything the country has ever seen. The security requirements would be enormous and costly.
Even if found guilty, the verdict would be appealed to the United States Supreme Court through panels of judges and judges dominated by hand-picked GOP appointees. It would take years to play out, allowing Trump to rally his supporters and even run again.
Perhaps the easiest criminal charge to prove would come from the Fulton County, Georgia, prosecutor’s investigation into Trump’s attempt to get Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes ”, enough to negate Biden’s victory in Georgia. (Okay, “incitement to insurgency” is much more serious, but do we have to wait another year for a referral to the Congressional Justice Department?)
Many have heard the audio tape where for about an hour President Trump made his desperate appeal to Raffensperger, including a veiled threat of prosecution if he failed in his job, but to which Raffensperger respectfully stood firm. I have asked myself several times, what more do you need to file a criminal complaint? More corroboration of intent? How long do they really need to complete the investigation and present the evidence to a grand jury?
No prosecutor wants to embark on such a monumental task unless it is an irrefutable slam dunk. There should be no doubt as to the intention of the former president. Two unsuccessful impeachment trials have only emboldened Trump. They cannot afford to lose.
This reality explains why prosecutors can settle for a charge of tax evasion that is compelling, based only on the numbers. We have seen it in organized crime and large white collar prosecutions. It could happen in New York.
While a strong believer in the rule of law, I am not sure the US justice system is up to the task. I also don’t believe the country can endure such a spectacle without the threat of another civil war. For the sake of democracy, please prove me wrong.
Robert Mounts lives in Gainesville.
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