As President Joe Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris and, thanks to the good people of Georgia, a Democratic Congress united by only the slimmest of margins, work to build a better America, questions about Trump must be answered. The United States can be revitalized only if we know the truth about our 45th president and the four years we have just lived through. The lies, the embracing of conspiracy theories, the deference to Vladimir Putin, the racism and support of white supremacy, the trampling of the U.S. Constitution, the thuggery and the dereliction of duty at a time of unparalleled crisis must be explained to the American people.
Trump’s Republican enablers must explain their actions. The truth must not be kept in the shadows for the sake of “moving on” only to be revealed in histories written decades from now. The truth must be known to We The People who lived through the hell brought to us by Donald J. Trump. The memory of those needlessly dead to COVID-19 but for a national response to the pandemic demands the truth about Trump.
Trump spent the four years of his administration abusing the powers of the presidency while hiding behind its protections. Some of those abuses are likely criminal but a sitting president cannot be indicted, according to an all-too-familiar Justice Department memo but once out of office that protection evaporates, and serious legal jeopardy could become a way of life for our newest former president. Trump’s reprehensible conduct since losing his reelection bid begs the question “what is he so afraid of?” This man is no stranger to lawyers, and he knows every delay tactic in the litigation playbook, yet he appears deathly fearful of what lies ahead of him. A self-pardon is likely to fail as the very language of the Constitution indicates the founders did not intend the executive pardon power to extend to a presidential gambit to evade the law. A pardon from Pence should Trump not finish out his term seems doubtful after Trump called on his supporters to attack a co-equal branch of government with Pence presiding over a joint session of Congress at the time of the onslaught.
Prosecutors, state and federal, have the power of prosecutorial discretion. They decide if charges will be brought and what those charges will be if brought. Trump’s last hope to escape consequences for his alleged crimes may be prosecutorial discretion. Democracy in the United States depends on the peaceful transition of power, now breached by Trump, and the practice that the party in power does not prosecute and imprison members of opposition parties. This norm assumes that members of opposition parties do not commit criminal acts that are affronts to the very essence of the nation. Trump has a long list of actions to answer for in a court of law ranging from obstruction of justice, violation of campaign finance law, financial fraud, and criminal charges stemming from his actions on January 6, 2021. Trump will do all he can to cause prosecutors to decline to bring charges against him. His claim to be eyeing another presidential run in 2024, his leadership position in the party that still calls itself Republican, his 74 million vote tally in the 2020 presidential election, and his position as a former president of the United States could all cause prosecutors to consider a pass for him under prosecutorial discretion. The concern is prosecution of Trump may appear politically motivated and that card will be played by Trump and his enablers to the hilt.
But to give Trump a pass would be a green light for his post-presidential continuation of dangerous lies and conspiracy theories he uses to retain his base and therefore his political power. To his followers he would indeed be the true “Teflon Don” above the reach of the law.
Trump will remain a threat to American democracy unless it is made clear to all that Trump is indeed within the reach of the law. No other president did a fraction of the damage Trump has done to our country. Only the investigation and prosecution of him, be it state, federal or both, can rid the nation of this demagogue. He must feel consequences and his supporters must see consequences. Those who look to follow his path to power must know there are consequences. To let his blatant disregard for the rule of law go unanswered is to allow Republicans determined to continue on his destructive path to do so.
The prosecution of Trump will inform the American people as to why Trump used his presidency to break this country. He is a malignant narcissist, a con man with no regard for anyone but himself but was there something more sinister that may have aligned his interests to bring us down with those of a hostile foreign power? As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris along with a Democratic Congress set about to heal this nation, the truth about Trump will further that healing. Going forward without real answers serves Trump and allows his poison to continue to influence American politics. The truth about this man, without the qualifications or the morality to be our president, brought to light in courts of law will reduce him to a lesson never to be repeated as we pick ourselves up and truly move on.
Susan SurfTone is a musician, former FBI agent, and frequent contributor to The Advocate.