Productive Ways to Hold Trump Accountable

On Friday, Jonathan Rauch published a god-awful argument for pardoning Trump. Today, Quinta Jurecic published a much better argument that a Truth Commission would be the ideal way to hold Trump accountable, but because that probably won’t work, we need to pursue other alternatives, including prosecution.

I’ve already laid out one reason why I think we need to prosecute Trump for his role in the insurrection: because if we don’t, it’ll hamper the ability to hold dangerous people accountable. Another reason is that so many defendants are excusing their actions because the then-President ordered them to storm the Capitol (indeed, that’s one reason, according to a new WaPo report, why DOJ might not charge some of the insurrectionists), the government must make it clear that order was illegal.

Still, I think there are solutions to the problem that both Rauch and Jurecic want to resolve: how to find accountability without derailing President Biden’s Administration.

Jurecic acknowledges that Republican resistance to accountability measures will exacerbate current political divisions.

[A] post-Trump investigation pursued along partisan lines could be doomed from the start. This is the irony: The exact conditions that led to and sustained the Trump era—white grievance, a polluted media ecosystem, and political polarization—are the same conditions that will likely prevent a truth commission from succeeding.


In the short run, any of these measures could risk making the country’s social and political divisions worse.

Rauch argues that prosecutions will derail the Biden Administration.

If we want Biden’s presidency to succeed, accountability to be restored and democracy to be strengthened, then a pardon would likely do more good than harm.

Consider, first, Biden’s presidency.

Biden has made clear in every way he can that he does not want or intend to be President Not Trump. He has his own agenda and has been impressively disciplined about not being defined by opposition to Trump. He knows Trump will try to monopolize the news and public discourse for the next four years, and he needs Trump instead to lose the oxygen of constant public attention.

Legal proceedings against Trump, or even the shadow of legal proceedings, would only keep Trump in the headlines.

Rauch also argues (fancifully, for precisely the reasons Jurecic gives that a Truth Commission would be undermined by polarization) that a non-criminal counterintelligence investigation will succeed in a way criminal investigations won’t.

It is important, then, that Trump’s presidency be subjected to a full-scale, post hoc counterintelligence scrub. There should be a public element, modeled on the 9/11 commission, and also a nonpublic, classified element. Both elements could be complicated and hindered by the criminal investigation of Trump. The criminal and counterterrorism investigations would need to be continually deconflicted; Congress would be asked to back away from inquiries and witnesses that step on prosecutors’ toes; Trump himself could plead the Fifth Amendment—an avenue not open to him were he to accept a pardon.

Ignoring for the moment the necessity of including Trump in an investigation into January 6, I agree that, to the extent possible, there needs to be some kind of accounting of what happened during the Trump Administration without turning it into partisan warfare.

Here are some ways to contribute to doing that.

Drain the swamp

Investigations into Trump for things that either are already (Russia or Ukraine) or can be (the election) turned into a tribal issue will absolutely exacerbate political division.

But there are some topics where former Trump supporters can quickly be shown how he hurt them.

For example, an inquiry into Trump’s trade war, especially into the harm done to farmers, will provide a way to show that Trump really devastated a lot of the rural voters who, for tribal reasons, nevertheless support him.

Or Trump’s grifting. In the wake of the Steve Bannon pardon, a number of Trump supporters were furious that Bannon was pardoned for cheating them, even while rioters or other more favored pardon candidates were not. Bannon’s not the only Trump grifter whose corruption demonstrably hurt Trump voters. There’s Brad Parscale’s grifting. There’s Jared Kushner’s favoritism in COVID contracting, which made the country less safe. There’s PPP abuse by big corporations at the expense of small businesses. None of this has to be explicitly about Trump; it can instead be an effort to crack down on corruption generally which by its very nature will affect Trump’s flunkies.

Have Trump dead-enders approve charges

With the exception of some egregious US Attorneys, Biden has asked the remaining US Attorneys to stay on for the moment. That defers any political blowback in the case of John Durham (who in addition to being CT US Attorney is also investigating the Russian investigation) and David Weiss (who is investigating Hunter Biden).

But it also allows people who are nominally Trump appointees to preside over at least the charging of existing investigations targeting Trump or his flunkies. The one place this is known to be true is in Southern District of New York (where Rudy is being investigated). It might be true in DC US Attorney’s office (though Billy Barr shut a lot of investigations, including into Roger Stone and Erik Prince, down). There’s Texas, where Ken Paxton is under investigation.There were hints of investigations into Jared in Eastern District of New York and, possibly, New Jersey.

If Trump US Attorneys aren’t replaced before they charge Trump or his allies, then the act of prosecution will be one approved by a Trump appointee.

Give Republicans what they think they want

Because they’re gullible, Republicans believe that the record of the Russian investigation shows corruption. What is in fact the case is that a cherry-picked and selectively-redacted set of records from the Russian investigation can be gaslit to claim corruption.

But since they’ve been clambering for Trump to declassify it all (even while both John Ratcliffe and Andrew McCabe have suggested that might not show what Republicans expect), it gives Biden’s Administration a way to declassify more. For example, there’s at least one Flynn-Kislyak transcript (from December 22, 2016) that Trump’s Administration chose not to release, one with closer Trump involvement then the others. There are materials on Alex Jones’ interactions with Guccifer 2.0. There are Peter Strzok notes showing him exhibiting no ill-will to Mike Flynn. There are records regarding Paul Manafort’s interactions with Konstantin Kilimnik on April 2016. That’s just the tip of an iceberg of very damning Russian-related records that Trump chose not to release, but which GOP demands for more can be used to justify.

Fully empower Inspectors General

One particularly absurd part of Rauch’s piece is his claim that we know all of Trump’s criminal exposure.

If he committed crimes that we don’t already know about, they are probably not of a new kind or magnitude.

As for what we do know about, it seems clear that he committed criminal obstruction of justice, for example by ordering his White House counsel to falsify federal records. But his obstruction was a process crime, already aired, of limited concern to the public and hard to get a conviction on as a stand-alone charge. There might be more to the Ukraine scandal than we know, but that matter, too, has been aired extensively, may not have been a legal violation and was appropriately (if disappointingly) handled by impeachment. Trump might have committed some form of sedition when he summoned his supporters to the streets to overturn the election, but he would have a colorable First Amendment defense, and sedition is a complicated and controversial charge that would open a legal can of worms. The real problem with Trump is not that we do not know his misdeeds but that we know so much about them, and yet he remained in office for a full term.

One piece of evidence Rauch is mistaken is his certainty that Trump’s only exposure in the Russian investigation is regarding obstruction, when (just as one example) there’s an ongoing investigation into an Assange pardon that appears to be closer to a quid pro quo; or the closed investigation into a potential bribe from Egypt. Democrats were denied a slew of documents pertaining to the Ukraine scandal, especially from the State Department. Democrats were similarly denied records on Trump’s abuse of clearance and non-official records.

One way to deal with the outstanding questions from the Trump Administration is simply to fully staff and empower the Inspectors General who have been undermined for four years. If, for example, State’s IG were to refer charges against Mike Pompeo or DOD’s IG were to refer charges pertaining to Kash Patel’s tenure, it wouldn’t be Democrats targeting them for investigation, it would be independent Inspectors General.

DOJ must be a key part of this. DOJ’s IG has already said it is investigating BJ Pak’s forced resignation. Democrats should insist this is expanded to review all of Barr’s politicized firings of US Attorneys.

As part of an effort to make sure Inspectors General do the work they should have done in real time, Biden should support the end of the OPR/IG split in DOJ, which means that the decisions of lawyers at DOJ (including those pertaining to the Ukraine scandal) are only reviewed by inspectors directly reporting to the Attorney General.

Respect FOIA

Joe Biden might not want to focus on Trump. But the press will continue to do so.

And if Biden orders agencies to treat FOIA like it is supposed to be treated, rather than forcing the press to sue if they want anything particularly interest, the press will do a lot of the accountability that courts otherwise might (and might provide reason for prosecutions). The press already has FOIAs in that have been undermined by improper exemption claims. For example, Jason Leopold has an existing FOIA into Bill Barr’s interference into the Roger Stone and Mike Flynn prosecutions. American Oversight has a FOIA into why Paul Manafort was sprung from jail when more vulnerable prisoners were not. FOIA into Trump’s separation policies have been key at reuniting families.

If such FOIAs obtained more visibility than they currently do, it would provide the visibility into some of the issues that people would love criminal investigations into.

One of the biggest scandals of the Trump Administration is how he undermined normal institutions of good governance, especially Inspectors General. If those institutions are restored and empowered, it will likely do a surprising amount of the accountability work that is so badly needed.

61 replies
  1. Nehoa says:

    All great ideas. I would like to add a suggestion that all of the ways that Trump benefitted from taxpayer dollars at his properties be investigated and disclosed. If not a criminal situation, I think a good case could be made to have the government be reimbursed for at least some of the expenditures in relation to the emolument clauses.
    Black’s Law Dictionary defines an “emolument” as an “advantage, profit, or gain received as a result of one’s employment or one’s holding of office.” Fertile ground with Trump I think.

    • Ralph H white says:

      This is not exactly on topic, but wasn’t Trump named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Stormy Daniels case? Isn’t the evidence pretty much in place for an indictment in that case? Would this not be an excellent place to begin the test of whether Trump can self-pardon?

        • Ralph H white says:

          Thanks for the reply. I have heard Lawrence O’Donnell, especially, refer to this case several times, implying it would be pretty open and shut. If Cohen was acting on behalf of Trump and went to prison and Trump asked him to do so, I would think it could move fairly swiftly. Again, it might be a test case before taking all the time and effort for all the more difficult to prove cases.

      • JVO says:

        If Biden wanted to do something for America – he would force ALL of government to fully comply with their FOIA requirements. This single move could create an avalanche of accountability and Justice For All!

  2. pseudonymous in nc says:

    On the swampy grifting part, it seems like the acting GSA administrator — Katy Kale, the newly-appointed deputy at GSA — could very quickly respond to the outstanding document requests from Peter DeFazio and Diana Titus about the Old Post Office lease.

    In broader terms, just going through the backlog of committee requests is a decent place to start, and yes, that can include Republican requests.

    • AndTheSlithyToves says:

      Andrea Bernstein does some deep reporting on that particular grift in her book, “American Oligarchs,” and her podcasts on Trump, Inc. It’s all of a piece with Trump Inc. becoming a giant laundromat for dirty money.

      Bernstein describes how the GSA and DC bureaucrats were outsmarted/manipulated by Trump, who sent Ivanka to work the deal. Yesterday, DC’s elected Attorney General, Karl Racine, filed a suit against the Trump 2016 Inaugural Committee and various Trump entities for abusing non-profit status to enrich themselves.

      I’m hoping that someone else is covering the original questionable contract on the original GSA lease, a typical highball submission, and Deutsche Bank’s involvement in financing most of it. Funny how Rosemary Vrablic of DB just “retired” recently.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Re: “the swampy grifting part,” Dr. EW wrote above, “In the wake of the Steve Bannon pardon, a number of Trump supporters were furious that Bannon was pardoned for cheating them.” I hoped this would happen, but haven’t seen it. Can anyone point me to where such reactions have shown up?

      In the alt-right world I keep an eye on, new shiny objects are being dangled. Theories about “the CCP Virus” (note the new label) follow a report on child-traffickers’ arrests. If distraction is their intended purpose, it seems (from comments) to be working. The most up-voted comment on the trafficking story reads “This should be in headlines!” (If it hadn’t been in a headline, there would have been no comment section.)
      Nothing about Steve Bannon’s perfidy.

  3. yogarhythms says:

    Accountability in 2021 involves personal integrity. Zip tie guy says” i was just following my mother through an open door… “ is an example of no sense of personal integrity. Who doesn’t want to protect their mother? If Zip’s mother’s protection was paramount why follow? Wouldn’t protection entail leading into dangerous area rather than following?
    Personal integrity requires honesty and when lacking accountability before a judge may be last resort. Trumps historic abuse of our legal system exemplified by initiating over 4,000 legal proceedings may prove ironic if only he can be compelled to account for his presidential conspiratorial attack of our constitutional electoral processes January 6th 2021.

  4. fubar jack says:

    Congress should craft a bill to address many of these issues.Codify into law the norms and guidelines that the previously administration trampled into powder and call it the Trump anti corruption bill …
    give him that legacy…

  5. Donald C Lagatree says:

    Unless you’re using said “mother” as a soft battering ram… let her through please, she’s old!

  6. joel fisher says:

    Why should anyone care about a “tribal issue”? Prosecute each and every Trump crime going back to Russia, his tax issues, and his campaign violations. Committing crimes in public and then getting away with them because of prosecutorial indifference is a formula for folks on the moron side of the “tribal issue” to gleefully flaunt the criminal law even more than they do right now.

    • skua says:

      It has led to much misery but AIUI many people vote on the basis of tribal issues. Otherwise I agree with what you write.

  7. BobCon says:

    I have banged on this drum before, but Congress has a critical role if the leadership can get its act together.

    Standard rules and norms have to go. Comprehensive rules changes need to go through which recognize that an attack on the Capitol and violation of Constitution is not business as usual, and the usual teaditions of consensus were already thrown out by the GOP. McCarthy, Scalise, McConnell and the rest can complain after they get their caucuses under control, not before.

    Ethics committees need expanded resources and stronger penalties for violations, including stripping offenders of budgets, office space, and perks. They need to drop the longstanding practice of defering action until prosecutors are finished, and begin investigations of Boebert, Gosar et al immediately.

    None of the backers of the mob should be allowed to be involved, and Pelosi should DQ the ones who violated the secure facility during the impeachment inquiry.

    Ethics committees have jurisdiction over congressional actions that DOJ can’t touch due to the Speech or Debate Clause, and they need to use it.

    More broadly, Congressional leadership needs to rework its oversight process. The dog and pony show one and done single day hearings with five minutes per member are a fiasco, and the House in particular should move the workload to the subcommittee level.

    Instead of obsessing about interviewing one or two top level people and then closing up shop, investigations need to work from the bottom up. Hearings should be led by professional counsel with limited time for member questioning. And they need to work — no more schedules of one hearing every two weeks — they need to meet multiple days every week, like they did until the 1990s.

    GAO can help a lot, and can work in a coordinated way with IGs on many issues.

    The assumption that Congress works from Tuesday afternoon through Thursday morning has to end. In addition to a heavy legislative role, they have to add to the oversight and investigative workload. They have been waiting for this opportunity since the GOP routed the Dems in the 2010 election, and it would be nuts to act like this is Paul Ryan’s Congress.

    • iamsmall says:

      “In addition to a heavy legislative role, they have to add to the oversight and investigative workload”

      How about starting with a universal law; if the house or senate issues a subpoena, you show up? A mandatory 2 weeks in jail and permanently on your record should ensure better compliance than the last 4 years.

      • BobCon says:

        They are in much better shape now that DOJ won’t be fighting them if it comes to contempt of Congress.

        They need to hit the ground running with citations and work out the details of enforcement now, rather than dillydallying around and waiting to see how things develop.

        This isn’t trying to get a rando scammer to show up for an oversight hearing on telemarketing, which is important but not urgent. It’s about rooting out the support network for Trump’s overthrow attempt.

  8. BraveNewWorld says:

    >”Another reason is that so many defendants are excusing their actions because the then-President ordered them to storm the Capitol ”

    Sounds like there are lots of witnesses ready to testify that DJT was the leader of a conspiracy to commit sedition and murder.

      • puzzled scottish person says:

        Another beautiful theory slain by those annoying facts?

        Trump has his way of slipping through the cracks but I live in hope that he’s finally gone too far. I know, that’s crazy thought after the last four years, but: legal jeopardy; bills coming due; Deutsche Bank dumping him; the GOP tearing itself apart. Can he wriggle his way out of everything yet again?

        There are still enough true believers out there to disturb my sleep some nights but I don’t think that Trump himself will actually be bothered to do anything to help them unless he, himself and him, is actually making money from it. And he seems pretty toxic company of late.

        I’m keeping my glass half full (it’s Burns’ Night after all) :-)

        • bmaz says:

          Yep. And that is not to say the tacts and evidence will not yet come as to Trump, Rudy etc on the insurrection, it very well might. In the meantime, as you note, he has more than enough problems to keep him busy.

  9. OldTulsaDude says:

    I have read that 70% of registered Republicans believe the election was fraudulent. About 29% of registered voters are Republican, so that means about 21% believe the Big Lie. If that number is extrapolated to the entire population of 300+ million, it would mean about 60 million people – and there is great hand-wringing about such a large number.

    But to me, the number that matters is the 240 million who don’t believe the nonsense – now that is a large number.

    So I say bust them all. If it pisses off the 20%, so be it.

  10. Stacey says:

    We just have to know that however we handle this now is the seed of what we will reap later. Again I will argue, Nixon getting pardoned by Ford resulted in Trump. Not prosecuting Trump in a way that hurts anyone associated with him and what he did, WILL RESULT in a Twitler2.0 scenario, next time one with half a brain. Germany’s baby Hitler even went to prison for a spell for his first rounds of antics and STILL came out to be full-blown adult Hitler even after that!

    I am so very concerned about our own ability to hold powerful people accountable in this country!!!! It’s sort of our thing. We simply do NOT do that well. All the reasons why we likely won’t take a hard bite out of this moment, not withstanding, this is the fork in the road we will look at later and know that we lived or died as a country by THIS moment, by what we do or do not do in response to this moment and to this man and to his associates. If we fail to adequately hold him accountable and inspire adequate deterrence in his 2.0’s, that will follow we are sealing our fate as a failed state right now.

    We’re in the climate change equivalent of a temperature tipping point–if our political corruption parts per million count gets above x, we set into motion a cascading series of events we will not be able to steer, control, stop, or survive. We are at that point, I fear, and if we don’t make a very hard and fast beeline in the opposite direction, we are not going to make it.

    • FL Resister says:

      Absolutely, I second your well stated opinion, thank you.
      We are at a tipping point.
      What we have seen, what we can document, and what we have a right to expect from our government officials that was not provided is all there.
      Everything must be exposed no matter what.
      It’s time to clean up.
      I am not one to lecture about shame, but what Trump, Pompeo, and the toadies have done in the guise of public office is embarrassing.

    • bmaz says:

      “Prosecuting Trump” on what? If it is the tax stuff, sure. If it is a belated Stormy Daniels “unindicted co-conspirator 1” charge, maybe. But if it is the January 6, fact set, then I still think people are WAY ahead of themselves. I am just a little old guy here in the the universe of electrons. But, based on the facts as currently known, as a defense attorney, I would feel pretty good about walking him on incitement/insurrection charges.

      I’d suggest people pull back a little bit until more is fleshed out.

      • Norskeflamthrower says:

        Alas, our “justice system” has been shown to be the last place that entitled white folks will ever get what’s coming to ’em. The system has allowed folks like Trump to literally get away with crimes in the middle of Manhattan in broad daylight and be celebrated as genius entrepreneurs. Charge every last pathetic moron who partied in the capitol on January 6th to the fullest extent possible for whatever crime they committed and force the courts to deal with ’em. No shoulder shrugging, or claiming that any of the actions we saw on that day were “minor” or “trivial” or first amendment protected. The rule of law better show it’s sleepy face here pretty soon or it’s just going to be a quaint phrase from history.

      • joel fisher says:

        Nooooo; I just got a new pitchfork. Obstruction of Mueller’s investigation? I thought Stone and “Individual #1” relate to the Stormy Daniels payoff. But didn’t Stone get convicted of lying to Congress about Russia? Who told him to do it? And pardoned him for it? There’s plenty of criminal activity in plain sight to get some search warrants. And a grand jury or two; that’s when the fun begins: these guys just can’t stop lying. There is no privilege–Executive, attorney-client, or anything else–to conspire to commit a crime. You can take the 5th, but sooner or later this shit has got to result in convictions.

      • PeterS says:

        I completely agree. And I suspect that “based on the facts as currently known, as a defense attorney, I would feel pretty good about walking him on incitement/insurrection charges” is if anything an understatement.

        As I commented yesterday, if Trump gets charged then so should the enablers. So it’s either no-one or everyone, and my guess is the former.

        (I’m not going to attempt a lame “treason charges” joke this time)

        • bmaz says:

          A slight understatement, I suppose. To be sure, such evidence may well yet be fleshed out. That is going to take a little time. Time that the impeachment charge, with its somewhat etherial evidence standard does not arguably need. But a real criminal prosecution is a whole different thing.

        • BobCon says:

          I’m very curious about how seriously prosecutors would consider jumping early on a few easy charges instead of trying to tie everything together.

          The guy is approaching 75 and not in the best shape. By the time trial and appeals happen, he could easily be in his late 70s and really bad health.

          Not all evidence has to come to light in the context of a Trump criminal trial, and I’m sympathetic to thinking through the balance of speed vs. thoroughness in a way that might not apply to a younger person.

        • bmaz says:

          I have no idea. But, criminally, have no issue with not rushing to low hanging fruit before understanding the bigger targets better. Age and relative health is often a concern, but it need not control things. (Hey, I recently had an older client die of Covid while still in the pre-trial status. Such concerns are nothing new in criminal law).

    • Nehoa says:

      Remember that Michael Cohen said that Trump speaks in code. Probably learned that from Roy Cohn. Can be deciphered, but made into “beyond a reasonable doubt” is tough. It is why mob bosses speak in code.
      That is why they have to go after him where he is truly vulnerable. Death by a hundred cuts. And maybe a pleasant few years in the NY state prison system.

        • FL Resister says:

          And there lies the rub. Inflection and repetition can only get a prosecutor so far. Yet there is still the fact that now twice-impeached Donald J. Trump’s overwhelming concern was overthrowing the 2020 presidential election. And he tried from many angles. DJT and his lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Lin Wood, and Kookoo Kraken Lady Powell, who lost in court over 60 times, were able to win in the court of public opinion from the Republican quarter. The evidence points to a massive effort by Trump to discredit the results of a legal election that culminated with the storming of the Capitol following a rally organized by the president. Would it help to apply the same rules that apply when black, blue collar, middle class, or poor people crime?

        • bmaz says:

          Real, criminal law crime, or impeachment “crime”? Because there is a hell of a difference in standards and burdens.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      Agreed completely, with the exceptions that I would add misbehavior by the Reagan, Bush, and Bush II governments, plus bankers, to the things which should have been cracked down upon. If we don’t clobber the corruption right now we’re in terrible trouble.

      • puzzled scottish person says:

        Somebody on the GOP side raised the threat of impeaching former Democratic presidents if Trump’s second impeachment goes ahead.

        I’m tempted to say, if they have the hard evidence, bring it on. I suspect it’s just the usual political posturing. If it’s on the same level as Trump’s court submissions, they are on to a loser.

  11. clyde says:

    I’d like to see Trump face the full consequences of his actions, but to avoid the negative impacts, he proposed a very limited pardon:

    “The kind of pardon we’re talking about should cover only federal crimes that Trump committed in his capacity as president. It would not cover crimes he committed as a private citizen, including during the presidential campaign; crimes committed by the Trump Organization or the Trump family; or crimes committed by Trump himself after noon on Jan. 20, 2021. Nor, obviously, would it cover any state crimes that Trump might have committed.”

    This, it seems to me, avoids much of the downside and still subjects Trump to accountability, and gives Biden the high ground. Also, impeachment and trial in the Senate is the appropriate venue for crimes committed in his official capacity as President.

    • Stacey says:

      You don’t get some special treatment for crimes you committed because you were the president. Our undemocratic institution of the Senate is the last place a powerful person would be given justice. We’ve already got such a two-tier system of justice in our country, let’s not institutionalize another one: Senate is the place to deal with presidential crimes? How has that worked out so far?

      When the church tries to handle it’s sex offenders instead of making sure all of those reports went straight to the police, what happened?

      When colleges and universities seek to ‘handle’ their sexual assault charges in-house instead of insisting the police handle it, what happens?

      When the military tries to handle its sexual assault cases in-house, in its incestuous justice system, what happens?

      I realize that those are all examples of sexual crimes, which we are not talking about regarding Trump, except that one type of crime he has ALSO been credibly accused of is rapes and sexual assaults, but to create some type of silo in which ‘members of a club’ try to police themselves it turns out about like what we see when literal police try to police themselves–not well!

      • clyde says:

        One could argue that all pardons are “special treatment” and they are; and some pardons are given for noble reasons (in the interest of justice or mercy) and some for ignoble reasons. Here, a limited pardon of Trump for acts committed in his official capacity as President serves two good purposes. It avoids setting a precedent of prosecuting a former President for his official acts and it diminishes the negative impact that prosecuting Trump for such acts would have on Biden’s administration and agenda.

        I understand George Conway’s view that “Fiat justitia, ruat caelum” — “Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall.” But real people will suffer if Biden’s agenda suffers and it’s Biden’s duty to weigh justice and the general welfare of Americans. On balance, I think a limited pardon is favorable.

        Trump has been impeached and will be tried in the Senate which is the appropriate venue for his acts as President. No one can know with certainty how the trial will end, but it will put his actions before the American people and require each Senator to vote.

        And the limited pardon does not protect Trump from criminal charges for crimes he may have committed before becoming President or for actions he committed that were not in his capacity as President, nor does it protect Trump from state charges. Trump will not escape unpunished.

        • bmaz says:

          Baloney, Trump does not deserve any pardon, whether “limited” or otherwise. Doing so would be the most horrible precedent imaginable.

        • Stacey says:

          Yes, Moral Hazard: Presidential Version.

          Where do we end up if we hold that Biden should pardon (to whatever degree) Trump for the crimes he committed in office so that we don’t set the precedent that Presidents go after their predecessors legally, instead they pardon them?

          Why don’t we just write a new law that literally says “If the President does it, then it’s not illegal”? We can name it the “Nixon Was Right Act”.

          Then for Act 2, we can sign off the Democracy Stage and say we had a good run, but having a King turns out to be easier, so there you have it.

          And I don’t want to hear that if Biden’s DOJ ‘goes after Trump’ then the next administration will go after Biden. Yeah, guess what, at this point, I think we can get pretty good odds on a ‘yes’ for that question NO MATTER HOW BIDEN’S DOJ TREATS TRUMP! It’s sort of their thing! Let’s hang a sign on our chests that says, “Hey, Republicans, we’re really susceptible to Jedi Mind Tricks, so have at us!”

  12. Joseph Andrews says:

    Does ANYBODY believe this?

    “One particularly absurd part of Rauch’s piece is his claim that we know all of Trump’s criminal exposure.”

    The author has no credibility. None.

    • BobCon says:

      The other idiotic assumption behind these people is that Trump will stop committing crimes.

      Not only is there a strong chance that Trump was accessing illegal sources of money before inauguration, there is a strong chance he is still doing it and will continue to do it.

      It is bad enough to preemptively pardon past crimes, but why screw up a potential investigation of ongoing ones?

      • cavenewt says:

        The other idiotic assumption behind these people is that Trump will stop committing crimes.

        Oh, but he’s learned his lesson! Susan Collins said so!

  13. P J Evans says:

    I was reading about Perry, the PA congressperson who was in on the Clark thing: he’s part of the “Freedom Caucus”, along with every other congresscritter who is connected with the insurrection.

      • subtropolis says:

        They’re the same thing. Jeffrey Clark was introduced to 45 by Perry, with the goal being that Clark would do 45’s bidding to have DoJ back the bullshit fraud claims.

  14. sand says:

    Biden’s discipline should and will allow the DOJ to pursue Trump and other related parties while Biden focuses on looking forward. There’s no technical reason DOJ investigations should impact COVID relief, infrastructure, economic policy, foreign policy, or anything else. It’s time once again to show that the US can walk and chew gum. We shouldn’t let the arsonists walk just because we need to rebuild the house. If we do, they’ll only burn it down again.

  15. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    Absolutely, I agree investigating all the Trump and Trump adjacent grifts and failures, like Bannons pardon and the trade wars, not only needs to be done but is beneficial politically.

    I just wonder if career agents and attorneys might think twice seeing what happened to the crossfire hurricane folks?

    • subtropolis says:

      I should think that that appalling behaviour of Republicans, both in the so-called administration and Congress, would give them more reason to do it, now they aren’t working in such a hostile environment.

  16. GKJames says:

    Missing from Rauch’s argument is a reference to the need for deterrence (about which the criminal justice system is ferocious when it comes to “ordinary” criminals). A return to norms starts with not excusing past transgressions, especially for a president. And there’s a difference between not pursuing Trump criminally (for understandable legal and political reasons) and granting him a pardon. Is the latter really a precedent we want to set?

    • subtropolis says:

      Indeed, Marco Rubio is claiming that trying 45 in the senate would be “arrogant”. I’m sick of this upside-down-world gaslighting from these wretched assholes.

      Arrogant assholes.

      • puzzled scottish person says:


        legal term of art meaning: I really don’t want you to do that thing that you are more than legally justified to do. Please.

  17. skua says:

    From this distance the need to hold Trump accountable stands with:
    30% of electors did not vote in 2020.
    There were no mass killings in the election period.
    Trump still had 38.5% popularity at the end of his Presidency.
    Voter suppression and commercially engineered and delivered mass delusions have poisoned democracy.
    It probably took Trump’s mis-handling of COVID-19 and the subsequent widespread financial woes and hundreds of thousands of Americans dead to have Trump lose.
    Many Americans still buy into exceptionalism.

    Looking at the above it appears that the highest priority would be stopping/reducing the entrapment of Americans into mass delusion as Murdoch and others have been doing since way before 2016.
    Whatever is done with 45 needs to be done with consideration and reference to that priority IMO.

    If that means paying Trump a billion dollars are year to land his base at a commitment to democracy, and a hunger for factual reality, then that would be a bargain for the nation. (COD) This being the internet I’ll state here that, “Of course this is not going to happen.” But if it was available and people were committed to America, then, rather going with their feelings (that I’ve got too) that 45 has been grossly offensive and so needs the harshest lawful punishment, then they’d look even-handedly at the benefits of bribing paying him to do something good for America.

    • cavenewt says:

      To the charge of naivete that night, I plead guilty: I didn’t consider then that Trump might have had his personal legal interests in mind. But it is impossible to escape the self-interested intent behind his question. From the earliest days of his administration, it became painfully apparent that in all matters — including affairs of state — Trump’s personal well-being took top priority. Four years and two impeachments later, he has managed to avoid the full consequences of his conduct.

      And he probably will continue to do so, because for his enablers, their personal (and party) well-being take top priority.

      What I’ve been amazed by for four years, and continue to be amazed by, is the fact that all these people—on both sides—insist on expecting Donald Trump to behave like a normal, albeit corrupt, politician.

      I mean, George Conway! He had pretty close association with Donald Trump during the campaign because his wife worked for Trump. Sure, he eventually saw the light, but where was he in the 1980s, and 90s, and 2000s? I even have an entire Gary Trudeau book devoted to Donald Trump cartoons. It’s not like his character was secret or anything.

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