Should Donald Trump Be Pardoned?
Many Americans believe there are two systems of justice in our country. One is for the rich and privileged and the other for the poor and less fortunate. According to a research project titled, Changing Public Attitudes toward the Criminal Justice System, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, public opinion on crime and criminal justice has fundamentally shifted over the past few years. Today, the public favors dealing with the roots of crime over strict sentencing by a two-to-one margin, 65 percent to 32 percent.
Donald Trump has claimed, “I’ve done more for the African American community than any president, well, maybe with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.” REALLY? Under the final weeks of his watch we will see more death row inmates executed, most of them Black men who were incarcerated at incredibly young ages. Moving to another angle, more people of color than white people have been killed due to Trump’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis. Counter to all his talk of prison reform, it’s clear that Trump is not helping minorities, he’s killing them.
This story comes from the New York Times, “Manhattan D.A. Intensifies Investigation of Trump: Prosecutors have recently interviewed employees of President Trump’s lender and insurance brokerage, in the latest indication that he still faces the potential threat of criminal charges once he leaves office.” There is a good reason the Donald never wanted you or anyone else to see his federal income taxes. According to his former and convicted personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump illegally claimed lower property values to pay less taxes and insurance premiums, while stating greater net worth to attain better loans from institutions like Deutsche Bank and insurance brokerage, Aon. Should Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. have a case against Trump, there is a potential threat of criminal charges that would be beyond the reach of federal pardons.
Something we must remember is that Mr. Vance has never gotten financial records, including tax returns, from Trump or his Organization. A case to obtain them is presently in front of the Supreme Court. With so many important lawsuits still pending, including the Texas suit to overturn the certified election results in four states and the fate of Obamacare, this tax return issue seems rather unimportant. If Chief Justice Roberts is wise, he will wait on any rulings until after the Electoral College vote on Monday. Should any of the state electors be unfaithful to their voters, look out, a ton of suits will land on the Supreme Court’s desk. Thanks, Donald.
Trump says he did nothing improper and has called any suspicion about him a politically motivated “witch hunt,” which is his go-to reaction for any whiff of crime or impropriety. Donald John Trump is simply never wrong. He’s the personification of perfection and it is always others who are out to get him. He and his organization have been involved in more than 3.500 lawsuits over the years.
Concerning Trump’s denial of the election results, here’s a thought provoking opinion piece by Michael Gerhardt that appeared in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “Do Trump’s actions amount to treason? This is certainly lawlessness, a cavalier rejection of the rule of law. Some call what Trump is doing in refusing to recognize his defeat nothing less than treason. Under our Constitution, treason ‘shall consist’ of ‘levying War against the’ United States, ‘or in adhering to their Enemies.’”
The only remedy for charging, convicting and carrying out the removal of a president is impeachment, but didn’t we already do that?
Gerhardt does show us a path to resolving Trump’s fake win mess, “…Biden might try to secure a judicial ruling requiring Trump to recognize Biden as president-elect. Then what if Trump does not agree to abide by that decision, and what if Trump has help in bringing about the alternate reality — his winning — that he churlishly insists is fact?” Well, I hate to say it, but with a limp Congress and no Supreme Court precedents this could be an excruciating journey through sludge.
Then there’s the question of whether the United States needs to spend millions of dollars on challenging the intent of the presidential pardons that will surely come. Charles Fried makes this point in the Boston Globe, “But there is a vital check: The president may be judged to have used his power tyrannically or corruptly, and he must face the constitutional consequences. The president cannot accept bribes and then pardon the payor with impunity; he cannot, with impunity, direct officers to use facilities owned by him personally and to pay for that use with public funds; he cannot shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, as he [Trump] himself has said, with impunity. All such acts are the very essence of the abuse of power, the corrupt use of power, and it is precisely for that that the power of impeachment was ordained.” Okay, but what recourse does a legal system have of holding him accountable after he leaves office?
Famous mobster Al Capone, was never convicted for the deaths of 33 people who, according to the Chicago Daily Tribune, died because of boss Capone’s actions. However, he was convicted on many counts of income tax evasion. The Supreme Court was involved in this case, and Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. rejected the argument that the Fifth Amendment protected criminals from reporting illegal income. Could this be Trump’s major legal peril? Is this why he works so hard to conceal his tax returns? Does he know he’s guilty of wrongdoing? Time will tell.
Sure, Trump will pardon his kids. In legal terms, that means they are guilty of a crime or crimes he knows they committed. The notion that it’s just a friendly get-out-jail card is ridiculous. Even if his paranoia and pathological disorders make him believe in ghosts and everyone out to get him, a presidential pardon is a legal maneuver that will stand forever.
I’ve thought a lot about this. The cleanest and almost-guaranteed way for Donald Trump to avoid being pulled into court after leaving office would be for him to resign the presidency and have new President Mike Pence pardon him for all the illegal things he did during his term in office. I have a feeling, though, that Trump’s ego would not allow him to see this through. He would rather attempt a self-pardon, and then wage war with the federal attorneys, the DOJ and the Supreme Court, but he won’t win that one because it would mean the Judiciary Branch has ruled a president is above the law. If Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon had been convicted and incarcerated all those years ago, things would now be much different and easier. Despite that, one clear fact remains. Trump must never be pardoned.
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