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Charging Donald Trump With a Crime: A Massive Mistake?

Donald Trump
President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the 2019 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Whether former President Donald Trump will be indicted for something, as he has so many ways of being indicted considering all of the possible charges pending against him over so many cases, is fueling various rampant speculations.

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The first question is whether Trump will be indicted in the first place.

The second question asks about the consequences of indicting Donald Trump.

Is indicting Trump a good idea? 

The War on Donald Trump

“Even some longtime Trump critics argue that indicting a former president is a terrible idea,” the Los Angeles Times reported back last year,  “they’ve made three main arguments.”

“First, that it’s unseemly for a president of one party to prosecute a former president of the other. It would set a terrible precedent, making the United States look like a “banana republic.” Second, prosecuting Trump would further inflame that nation’s division, even inspire violence.” And third, “several former prosecutors have cautioned that winning a unanimous conviction is harder than it looks, and the case against Trump might not be a slam-dunk.”

All fair points. Of course, if Trump broke the law, he should be held to account like any other citizen. The problem lies in the pursuit, the potentially overzealous pursuit – the ardent effort to paint Trump as a criminal. Trump, despite his myriad shortcomings, despite his unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was stolen, is correct in claiming he is the number one target of the DNC and the liberal media – who have been trying their damndest to assign criminal wrongdoing to the former president since the moment he announced his candidacy in 2015. The myopic Trump focus, often underscored with hyperbolic cries of wrongdoing, is inappropriate and tangential. (Let’s worry less about Trump, more about healthcare.) 

The War on Bill Clinton 

The ongoing, nearly decade-long effort to paint Trump as a criminal is reminiscent of the Newt Gingrich-led efforts, which dominated the 1990s, to destroy President Bill Clinton.

While Clinton was repulsive in many respects, the efforts to dismantle his presidency were Arthur Miller-esque, disruptive to the function of our government, and expensive. Clinton’s sexual behavior was shocking (although not unique to the office of the presidency). Ken Starr’s Office of the Independent Counsel spent the 90s digging up dirt on Clinton; an inquiry that started with a real estate scandal, morphed into a moment by moment account of Clinton’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, and ultimately led to Clinton being impeached in the House. As Thomas Frank once wrote, the Republicans actually impeached Bill Clinton for a bl*w j*b. That’s a witch hunt.

Really, from a strictly legal perspective, the most egregious thing Clinton did (if you take the GOP perspective) was commit perjury during the investigation. So, in an effort to catch Clinton committing a crime, Clinton was put in a position where he did commit a crime. It was kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In the end, Clinton retained his presidency, launched the Clinton Global Initiative, and helped his wife, Hillary, become one of the Democrat Party’s most prominent members.  

Trump seems more likely to have committed actual crimes than Bill Clinton. But the white-knuckled, tunnel-visioned motivation to catch Trump doing something wrong harkens Gingrich and Starr burning through the taxpayer’s money to discover and document how Bill Clinton wields his cigar. 

What History Says

But unlike Clinton, who had rhino-thick skin and a base of soccer moms, the thin-skinned Trump and his MAGA base have been a bit less receptive to the perpetual assumption that Donald Trump did something wrong. Many fear, with the support of precedent, that the endless prodding will have dire consequences.

“Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., criticized what he viewed as a two-tiered legal system in favor of President Biden and against former president Trump,” Fox News reported. “Most Republicans, including me, believes when it comes to Trump, there is no law. It’s all about getting him. There is a double standard when it comes to Trump,” Graham said. “And I’ll say this, if there is a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information after the Clinton debacle…there will be riots in the street.” 

Graham, despite being the world’s most prominent beta male, is not wrong. Well, he’s wrong for implicitly condoning “riots in the streets.” Still, he’s not wrong about the perception amongst nearly half the country that there is a two-tiered legal system, or that The System is out to get Trump, or that everyone let Hillary Clinton’s improper e-mail handling slide. Democrats should have gained some empathy and compassion from their inverse experience, on the other side of Ken Starr’s pious, self-righteous escapade.

Instead, Democrats have used the Gingrich-Starr years as the blueprint for their own pious, self-righteous escapade. That’s sad. 

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Donald Trump

Former President of the United States Donald Trump speaking with attendees at the “Rally to Protect Our Elections” hosted by Turning Point Action at Arizona Federal Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona.

Donald Trump

President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in Phoenix, Arizona.

Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.



  1. Click bait article

    August 29, 2022 at 7:48 pm

    The author spends a lot of bandwidth trying to conflate Clinton emails with Trump stealing government documents. Maybe you’d be more comfortable writing for Breitbart?

  2. Nick Caraway

    August 29, 2022 at 11:16 pm

    This is false equivalence to the nth degree. Let’s see… A few weeks ago, Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, openly confessed to passing confidential polling data to Russian intelligence asset Konstantin Kalimnik. Said intelligence was used to devise and focus disinformation to manipulate the vote in key battleground states. In other words, Manafort admitted, definitively, that he helped a hostile foreign power rig the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. Which only reinforces the findings of the Republican-led investigation of the Senate’s Intelligence Committee. That’s before we even get to the Muller Report.

    Second, the January 6 Committee has proven beyond any reasonable doubt that Trump led a multipronged conspiracy to stay in power even after he lost the 2020 election. In other words, Trump attempted a self-coup to take over the United States Government.

    And now we find that Trump stole hundreds of classified documents, that he refused to return after the National Archives and Records Administration asked for them politely, many times, over many months. Each of these things is a felony. And not just because a technical provision of some forgotten law says so. These three — and there were many more (see first impeachment, Ukraine) — were substantive attacks on the foundation of the United States Government and the rule of law.

    The Democrats are not “out to get” Trump. It is Trump who thinks he is a king, not the elected president of a democracy, and has tried to suborn every piece of the government’s machinery accordingly. If he is allowed to walk free, we become a mirror image of Orban’s Hungary.

  3. Yrral

    August 30, 2022 at 4:19 am

    Maybe you should resign from the bar,and become lawlessnes like Trump, Lindsey Graham got his own legal problems related to Trump,any lawyer know you take an oath before the bar,to uphold all laws and standards,before the court

  4. don 20-24 years

    August 30, 2022 at 3:54 pm

    A better question is: Are we a country of laws for all? Indictment is just for a lifelong criminal.

  5. Steve

    August 30, 2022 at 4:33 pm

    And, what exactly was “the Crime” Trump committed?

  6. don 20-24 years

    August 30, 2022 at 7:13 pm

    Steve, Have you been living under a rock while trump stole documents, refused to give them all back after a subpoena, then FBI had to retrieve them with a search warrant. Obstruction of justice is just one part of his current crimes.

  7. IBRC2

    August 31, 2022 at 8:30 am

    Finally something this guy writes do I agree with. all except one quip about Graham.

    Clinton, like Trump, was an outsider. not to the same degree, but certainly not yet one of the boys. He was a scoundrel to be sure, but I have read the Republicans at the time stated his impeachment was retribution for Nixon and I can believe this. Though I was in favor, at the time, of nailing Clinton as hard as could be, i was wrong. His impeachment not about enforcing the law. it was about trying to undo an election. The same is more obviously true regarding Trump.

    Most people find Teump, the man, pretty hard to accept, but impeachment the guy twice and his not being removed? history will not view this favorably, especially given that the Democrats were calling for impeachment before he was sworn in. That the Democrats continued a relentless pursuit after he left office further underscores how thus is all about politics.

    If an individual breaks the law, that individual should be prosecuted, but pushing further against Trump does set a terrible precedent. What do the Democrats expect the Republicans to do when they regain the House? Even if pursuing Trump can be asserted to be right, it is unwise.

    As to Graham, my thought is his quip was intentionally reflective of the threat Schumer made to the Supreme Court justices regarding the then potential overturning of Roe…which people did follow up on. Ih, BTW, it’s poor form for a pist-modern liberal to challenge a man’s manhood.

  8. froike

    August 31, 2022 at 12:57 pm

    Never Trumpers are all the same…Indict him for What? He did nothing wrong. Since The Man ran for POTUS you Lefty Demonratic Satan Worshippers have been trying to ruin him and his family.
    Biden, Hillary, Obama, Pelosi, Schumer, Schiff, and most of our Demonratic and Rinos are career criminals who should rot in a Federal Pen! If you are Pro Biden…You are Anti Constitution and Anti America.

  9. froike

    August 31, 2022 at 1:01 pm

    Clickbait…Trump stole nothing….A President has the empowerment to Declassify and keep documents in a securely guarded place. That is exactly what Trump did.
    Hillary…violated every Government Computer Security Protocol and put our Nation at risk. It’s Treasonous! She should be in Prison for what she did.
    I’m a Fed myself….if I send home a Govt E Mail…guess what? I’m fired. Why doesn’t the Law apply to her?

  10. Clickbait

    August 31, 2022 at 2:30 pm

    froike, I reiterate, you are an idiot. You have no concept of what you are talking about, but are willing to parrot whatever far right lunatic says. There are absolutely zero facts associated with your comments. Perhaps you could read reports from actual lawyers, professors at leading schools and learn something instead of talking stupid?

    BTW, the law doesn’t distinguish between stealing classified or unclassified documents…the penalty is the same.

  11. Walker

    February 5, 2023 at 8:22 am

    Seems to me letting Presidents get away with crime is about as banana republic as it gets. It really sends the message that some people really are above the law.

    Now for these idiots who say “Where is the crime?” My answer is; “Then you won’t mind it going to court.” Because if he really is innocent, that is what he should be found in court. Of course the Justice department at either state or federal level has to believe it has a case, but it if does, I say bring it on. If they can’t prove it in court, then the defense has the ability to counter sue for frivolous lawsuits. So it shouldn’t be that they try anything, they better be real sure they have a solid case. And if they do, they better charge him.

    That goes for the “lock her up” crowd too. If they have a solid case and can prove in court that Hillary broke the law, they should take it to court. Seeing that they haven’t done so in 6 years leads me to believe they have nothing and know it. The slogan is just empty threats to make them feel good.

  12. John

    February 5, 2023 at 10:07 am

    Forget about the Democrats wanting Conjob Trump to be locked up. We independents want him locked up for all his crimes and violations of his Oath of office while president.

  13. Ron

    February 7, 2023 at 12:31 am

    Indict Trump? Consider the biblical precedent of Solomon offering his rival Adonijah clemency on the condition that he behave properly as a private citizen and not stir up any mischief. Unfortunately, after King David died, Adonijah made some moves toward the royal harem that suggested that he was still seeking the throne, causing Solomon to have him executed for treasonous conspiracy. If Trump were to acknowledge the legitimacy of the 2020 election with Biden as the winner, then by all means it might be good. However, if Trump continues to stir up mischief, then that is a different story.

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