Multiple news outlets have reported the past few days that Joe Biden is reluctant to pursue criminal charges against Donald Trump after he leaves office, believing Trump has spent enough time in the limelight and consumed enough national energy.
As I said here, I have mixed feelings. Donald Trump is undoubtedly a criminal and belongs in prison; putting him there will further divide our already-badly-divided country, however. A reader who goes by the name Infidel753 favors prosecution; I’ve reproduced his comment below:
The problem is that giving Trump a pass would also come at great cost to the country, by disappointing Democratic voters and de-motivating them to turn out in 2022, and by adding fuel to the both-siderist attitude that the big guys in both parties are part of a cozy club who always cover up for each other.
It’s understandable that Biden doesn’t want his own presidency preoccupied with going after Trump — he has a lot of other things he needs to do. So let the SDNY deal with it. That would also take the issue of a presidential pardon off the table.
The Democratic party needs to stop worrying about appeasing people who will hate them no matter what they do, and focus more of appealing to their supporters (and potential supporters in the sensible center) who are going to judge them by whether they do the right thing as opposed to the politically expedient thing.
I can’t argue with any of that. What is more, I lean increasingly toward prosecution as he orchestrates this weird, slow-motion grass-roots coup aimed at intimidating electors and refuses to facilitate the transition.
So: What do Civil Commotion readers think? Poll below, and there’s lots of room for comments.
UPDATE: What do you know? The Nation takes a look at exactly this question, and favors prosecution.
Legal prosecution will do nothing to fight the popularity of Trump and Trumpism. Indeed, given his anti-system persona, it is likely to bind him closer to his followers. He’ll become a martyr.
Having said that, not prosecuting Trump will also come with a cost. The United States is a nation of elite impunity, as the history of recent decades demonstrates. Nixon had to resign for Watergate, but he also received an expansive pardon from his successor, Gerald Ford, which covered all crimes Nixon might have committed as president whether discovered or not. It’s hard to interpret this pardon as affirming anything other than the idea that an American president can never face legal liability, no matter what.