Viewpoint: Hold Trump accountable for his crimes

Karen Rubin
Karen Rubin, Columnist

What is the point of a president swearing an oath to uphold the Constitution if criminal activity can be swept under the rug? What would prevent a dictator wannabe like Donald Trump from assassinating a political opponent and then pardoning himself? Or writing himself a check for $1 billion from the U.S. Treasury?

Either we have an Emoluments Clause or we don’t. Either we have a Constitution and an oath a president takes to uphold the Constitution and laws or we don’t. Either we have laws against political corruption, obstruction of justice, witness intimidation and tampering, election interference, campaign finance, bribery, extortion, tax fraud, bank fraud, insurance fraud, money-laundering, sexual assault or we don’t. Either we have a rule of law and the notion that no one is above the law or not.

But if Trump is allowed to get away (as he has for his entire life) with these (and more) crimes (add in abuse of power, ordering kidnapping of migrant, children, assassination, promoting the sickness and death of hundreds of thousands for political expediency, withholding life-saving aid to governors who fail to show proper obeisance, firing whistle blowers and inspectors general, failing to implement laws like the Affordable Care Act), that will become the precedent.

What is more, Trump will do what he did with maligning and misrepresenting the Mueller investigation and declare himself vindicated! Exonerated! so he will run again or just pretend to. And he will declare he is running again in 2024 in order to continue to scam his MAGAs out of money, keep the spotlight, retain his vise over spineless Republicans, and attack any prosecution as political, like he did with the Russia probe (125 contacts with Russian agents, including Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort), and yes, bolster the value of his “brand.”

If Trump is not prosecuted, what will stop a smarter even more ruthless, devious, shameless but competent criminal sociopath multibillionaire from buying, bullying and beating his way into office in order to win that coveted gold ring, a get-out-of-jail-free-for-life card for himself and the thugs who do his bidding?

Prosecuting Trump is not the same as Trump’s unhinged, unfounded, banana republic political prosecutions of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The difference is politically motivated prosecution, which is what dictators do, vs. prosecution of actual crimes, which democracies that adhere to the “no man is above the law” virtue.

Law professor Eric Posner, writing against the prosecution of Trump after office, says it will set a bad precedent for prosecuting political opponents, especially since he suspects Trump would be acquitted.

Nonsense. Andrew Weissman, who was a member of the Mueller investigation, which found Trump committed 10 counts of obstruction of justice (a crime), gets it right. If Trump is allowed to evade accountability, that, too, sets a precedent: that a president is above the law, that a president can commit any sort of crime, including extorting officials to overturn an election, and simply pardon himself. He can obstruct special counsel, perjure himself, even assassinate an opponent without repercussion.

There has never been a prosecution of an ex-president, you say? That’s because there has never been anyone as corrupt as Trump to have occupied the office, largely with the help of a foreign power. Weissman points out that France and Israel, hardly banana republics, are presently engaged in indictments of their leaders.

And how do you hold Trump accountable for withholding information and deceiving the American public, promoting the spread of a virus that has killed more Americans than have died in multiple wars combined? That isn’t a policy failure. That was a fraud perpetrated for personal, political (therefore financial) gain – no different than lying to Congress to invade a foreign country to launch a war because you want to be a war president to win re-election, or extorting a political prosecution by withholding (taxpayer) military aid to an ally.

And how is what Trump did by holding super-spreader events around the country in violation of local laws different from germ warfare or withholding life-saving aid and supplies to states and localities led by Democrats to gain electoral advantage?

How many laws has Trump, who supposedly swears an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws, violated? I would list posse comitatus to send U.S. troops to fire upon peaceful protesters; sabotaging the duly enacted Affordable Care Act; refusing to follow the Constitution’s prescribed checks-and-balances and answering subpoenas from Congress; withholding information and destroying records in violation of the Presidential Records Act; violating U.S. and international asylum law, human rights, environmental protections, and treaties, including unilaterally pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty. (Has any president had more court decisions go against him?)

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington documented more than 3,400 conflicts of interest, violations of the Hatch Act (a law) and Emoluments Clause (in the Constitution). Trump has basically traded on his office and even sold out and the prospect of owing $400 billion (at least up until he racked in $207 million from gullible supporters), makes Trump, who has already demonstrated himself happy to leak classified secrets, a national security risk. It remains to be seen whether he was being blackmailed by Putin over the Steele Dossier and other indiscretions. (www.citizensforethics.org/reports-investigations/crew-reports/president-trumps-3400-conflicts-of-interest)

This isn’t about policy differences with Trump, though there are too many to list or about quaint “norms,” as Posner would suggest. They are violations of law. And the really scary thing is that Trump keeps escalating his “norm-busting” to the point of engineering a coup.

Here’s my test: If anyone else committed that offense, would they be prosecuted? If the answer is yes, you must investigate and if there is evidence of a crime, prosecute.

“Being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law,” writes Weissman, “What precedent is set if obstructing such an investigation is allowed to go unpunished and undeterred?” (www.nytimes.com/2020/11/24/opinion/trump-prosecution.html)

Prosecuting Trump wouldn’t make the United States a banana republic, as Posner charges. Not prosecuting him would.

About the author

Karen Rubin

Share this Article