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.
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.