Legal expert makes the case for 3 different ways to prosecute Trump right now

Legal expert makes the case for 3 different ways to prosecute Trump right now

More than a year after his departure from the White House, former President Donald Trump continues to be the subject of a variety of investigations — from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6 insurrection to the offices of Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis, New York State Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. On top of that, the Department of Justice, under U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, has been bringing both felony and misdemeanor charges against the pro-Trump insurrectionists who tried to prevent now-President Joe Biden’s Electoral College certification when they attacked the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.

Many Trump detractors, from liberals and progressives to Never Trump conservatives and libertarians, are hoping that the January 6 probes will lead to some type of legal case against the 75-year-old ex-president — one that would prevent him from running for president in 2024 and pushing the United States further down the road to far-right authoritarianism. But that remains to be seen. Attorney Chris Truax, in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on February 3, stresses that January 6, 2021 is by no means the only disturbing part of Trump’s history — and he describes three possibilities for investigations and/or prosecutions that aren’t about January 6 per se.

Truax’s ideas are: (1) “the Ukrainian coverup,” (2) “shedding official records,” and (3) “the Republican National Convention.”

Trump was the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice — first over the Ukraine scandal, then over January 6. Both times, he was acquitted in U.S. Senate trials. Although four U.S. presidents have faced articles of impeachment in the House — Trump, Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton — none of them were convicted in a Senate trial and actually removed from office by the impeachment process. Nixon, in fact, never went to trial; he resigned as president in August 1974, realizing that if the U.S. House of Representatives indicted him on any articles of impeachment and they went to the Senate for consideration, even arch-conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona would be voting “guilty.”

But even though the Ukraine scandal resulted in a “not guilty” vote for Trump in a GOP-controlled Senate, that doesn’t make his actions any less disturbing.

“President Trump’s efforts to threaten Ukraine into launching an investigation into Joe Biden resulted in Trump’s first impeachment trial, but the events that led up to that trial — specifically, how the whistleblower complaint was handled — have never been properly investigated,” Truax argues. “To refresh your memory: Someone who had knowledge of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president filed a whistleblower complaint…. There are real questions here about who knew what, when, and what they did about it.”

Truax continues, “It is not impossible that Trump himself was involved in the effort to suppress the complaint — even though, as the subject of the complaint, he should not have been made aware of it, much less allowed to interfere with how it was processed. There’s written evidence — from Sen. Ron Johnson, of all people — strongly suggesting that Trump knew about the complaint by August 31, 2019 and was already actively covering his tracks.”

Describing Possible Investigation/Prosecution #2, “shedding official records,” Truax writes that Trump had no business destroying government records that should have been preserved.

Truax explains, “It’s now beyond dispute that President Trump regularly destroyed official records by tearing them into shreds. This was documented as early as 2018…. Just this week, the National Archive confirmed that Trump had a habit of tearing up documents when it provided several documents to the House January 6 Committee which had been laboriously taped back together. This wouldn’t be quite as dramatic as nailing Donald Trump for the events of January 6, but it would be more than made up for by the bigly load of cosmic irony. If Donald Trump really did tear official documents — documents that are required to be preserved by the Presidential Records Act — into little pieces, then he violated 18 U.S.C. § 2071, which makes it a felony to mutilate or destroy an official record. Whether or not someone was able to put the record back together later is irrelevant.”

Discussing Possible Investigation/Prosecution #3, “the Republican National Convention,” Truax argues that the August 27, 2020 event never should have been held on federal government property.

Truax recalls, “When Donald Trump decided that he’d hold part of the Republican National Convention on federal property and stage his acceptance speech from the White House, the Office of Special Counsel produced a letter explaining that this was perfectly legal because President Trump was not subject to the Hatch Act, which prevents federal employees from engaging in partisan politics. And even if it were illegal, the Hatch Act itself is fairly toothless and carries no criminal penalties.”

The attorney continues, “But there is another statute, 18 U.S.C. § 610, which does. This statute makes it a felony —punishable by up to three years in prison — to ‘intimidate, threaten, command, or coerce’ any federal employee for the purpose of getting them to engage in political activity. And while it’s true that President Trump himself wasn’t bound by the Hatch Act, all other federal employees, including White House staffers, were. As many as 1000 Republicans were invited to attend the August 27, 2020 event.”

Truax wraps up his Bulwark article by emphasizing that no one in the U.S. is above the law — not even a former president.

“In America,” Truax writes, “laws aren’t just for little people. They’re for everyone, including the president. In fact, they apply particularly to the president. After all, the laws don’t faithfully execute themselves.”

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