What Should the Biden Administration, Congress, and State AGs Do About Trump Now?

Trump’s absence (or minimal references to him) on twitter and the news has been wonderful. (I’m sorry if these words and this post ruins this moment.) But there is a really serious question about how the Biden DOJ, Congress, and State AGs should proceed–specifically, with regard to convicting Trump of impeachment charges and investigating and prosecuting him for federal and state crimes. (Note: I’m starting a separate thread instead of including this in the Biden Administration threat because I didn’t want to mess that one up with this topic.)

This op-ed by George Conway lays out the potential state and federal crimes. I highly recommend reading this article, as it provides a good overview of these potential crimes, and the costs and benefits with pursuing or forgoing prosecution. It’s important that Americans understand the number and seriousness of potential crimes and misdeeds. These are not trivial issues. Here are some general points that I think are important:

  • Conway mentions that Biden has a desire to move on. I understand this, and a part of me feels this way, too. Prosecuting Trump will be messy, and this may interfere with addressing serious and pressing problems.
  • At the same time, I strongly believe Trump must face some serious consequence. I think most people who read the list of potential crimes and misdeeds would agree. To acquit him and not prosecute him would not only be wrong, but would indicate that future presidents are above the law. This would put our republic in a potentially dangerous position.
  • What would consequence would sufficiently bolster the idea that the POTUS is not above the law, but also not creating a huge circus? My sense is that this is the sweetspot we should seek.
  • Off the top of my head, I would say the Senate convicting Trump might be sufficient–at least on the federal level. Trump would lose the pension all presidents receive, lifetime secret service protection, and could be barred from running for office again. If this is sufficient, this consequence would be better than investigating and prosecuting several federal crimes. Senate Republicans should consider this strongly.

  • This does not include whether states should investigate potential crimes and prosecute. They may have to, at least the most serious ones.

6 thoughts on “What Should the Biden Administration, Congress, and State AGs Do About Trump Now?

  1. Republicans claim to care about unity–and the desire to avoid divisiveness–to justify their opposition to impeachment and conviction is bogus. See Sen. Romney’s sums up my position:

    I believe congressional Republicans want to avoid their role in healing divisions–specifically, being straight with Trump supporters–telling them that Biden won legitimately, that the claim Biden stole the election is completely baseless–and that the truth is that Trump and many congressional Republicans and conservative pundits have been misleading them.

    I also want to make another point. The fact that Senate Republicans have to decide whether to convict Trump is problematic–because to do so would implicate those who also enabled, actively or passively, in Trump’s incitement. I’m not sure how this issue can be dealt with, but it seems very real.

    1/28/2021

    I don’t always agree with AOC, but I agree with her comments below:

    The Republicans who have actively or passively enabled Trump’s undermining of the election, before and after the election, have not faced the appropriate level of condemnation. There should be an overwhelming uproar over their involvement in misleading Americans about the election. Some corporations have acted, by pledging to stop funding Republican candidates. But that’s not enough. The level of outrage has bee insufficient, given what they’ve done. Many of these Republicans know better, too–which makes it all the more appalling.

    These Republicans have not been chastened. Apparently, six deaths–the mob chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!”–was not enough for them to apologize and change their ways. It’s utterly disgusting.

    Edit

    This is a good summary, from Asha Rangappa:

    THREAD. I had to take a little break from political Twitter to gather my thoughts on how the GOP is responding to impeachment. I find that in the face of gaslighting, it is useful to repeat things that we know to be true, and then assess the choices from there. To wit:
    2. TRUTH #1: Donald Trump did not win the 2020 election. He could not accept this outcome. Because of his inability to accept this outcome, he manufactured a Big Lie that he *did* win the election, and put all of the official powers at his disposal to force this to be the case
    3. TRUTH #2: As part of this effort, he attempted to 1) shakedown the Secretary of State of Georgia to manufacture 11,780 “extra” votes that would give him a victory in that state; 2) conspired with officials at DOJ to manufacture false cases of voter fraud in Georgia
    4. and 3) rallied his supporters using the Big Lie to convene in Washington, D.C. to “fight” against Congress’ Electoral College certification. When this became a violent insurrection at the Capitol, he refused to use his power to either verbally disavow that insurrection or
    5. use his official authority to permit the National Guard and other reinforcement mechanisms to protect the official and constitutional functions of a coequal branch of government. In so doing, he violated his oath of office.
    6. TRUTH #3: His words and actions, in addition to his failure to act, resulted in the death of 5 people, including law enforcement officials, and the threat to the lives of members of Congress and his own Vice President.
    7. TRUTH #4: If he had succeeded, it is unclear what state of functioning our democracy would be in at this moment.
    8. TRUTH #5: There are members of Congress who subscribe to the Big Lie, and are effectively representing the interests of the domestic terrorists who invaded our Capitol in our democratic processes.
    9. Reasonable people cannot disagree on the above Truths. The question is how whether and how Trump should be held accountable for #1-5. Impeachment is one option through which he can be held accountable, and specifically whether he should be barred from holding office again.
    10. If Senators hide behind procedural arguments for why Trump’s actions cannot be adjudicated in an impeachment trial (on which the weight of experts agree is permitted), then they are avoiding, but not answering, the question of accountability
    11. So the only questions to ask these people is: 1) Do you believe Trump should be held accountable for his actions? (yes or no) and 2) If not an impeachment, then how? (i.e., do they go on record as conceding that criminal prosecution is OK?)
    12. Underlying both of these questions, of course, is the more fundamental question of: Do you disavow Trump’s Big Lie? Unless GOP are willing to go on record saying YES, then they are 1) saying the insurrection was justified and 2) Trump should not be held accountable, ever /END
    P.S. I am a linear thinker and I think there is a nice graph/flowchart that can be made from the above if anyone is inclined to make it!

  2. As we near the Senate impeachment trial–and Senate Republicans seem prepared to acquit Trump–here are some important to things to consider. First, here’s a video made by the Just Security website, a site I trust (if that means anything):

    "Fight For Trump" Just Security – Incitement at US Capitol from Justin Hendrix on Vimeo.

    from Just Security

    On the website, they also feature former federal prosecutors commenting on whether this would constitute incitement of violence. (Note: Many appear on cable TV news, and many have been openly critical of Trump.)

    I also recommend reading an account of Trump’s reaction as the January 6 riot at the Capitol was ongoing: Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump’s failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol reporting from WaPo The report is based on “nterviews with 15 Trump advisers, members of Congress, GOP officials and other Trump confidants, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details.”

    Here are passages that stood out for me:

    But as senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery television images of the crisis that was unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their cries for help.

    “He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” said one close Trump adviser. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”

    Even as he did so, Trump did not move to act. And the message from those around him — that he needed to call off the angry mob he had egged on just hours earlier, or lives could be lost — was one to which he was not initially receptive.

    Trump, however, did not join the angry crowd surging toward the Capitol. Instead, he returned to the White House, where at 2:24 p.m. he tapped out a furious tweet railing against Vice President Pence, who in a letter earlier in the day made clear that he planned to fulfill his constitutional duties and certify President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris as the winners of the 2020 electoral college vote.

    “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify,” he wrote. “USA demands the truth!”

    After Trump Jr. tweeted the mob to not resort to violence,

    But the president himself was busy enjoying the spectacle. Trump watched with interest, buoyed to see that his supporters were fighting so hard on his behalf, one close adviser said.

    Several Republican members of Congress also called White House aides, begging them to get Trump’s attention and have him call for the violence to end. The lawmakers reiterated that they had been loyal Trump supporters and were even willing to vote against the electoral college results — but were now scared for their lives, officials said.

    Shortly after 2:30 p.m., the group finally persuaded Trump to send a tweet: “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement,” he wrote. “They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”

    But the Twitter missive was insufficient, and the president had not wanted to include the final instruction to “stay peaceful,” according to one person familiar with the discussions.

    At one point, Trump worried that the unruly group was frightening GOP lawmakers from doing his bidding and objecting to the election results, an official said.

    The president said he wished he hadn’t done it, a senior White House official said, because he feared that the calming words made him look weak.

    I think it’s important to consider the various efforts Trump made to overturn the election. Below is an audio of Trump trying to get the Georgia secretary of state (a Republican who voted for Trump) to find 11,000+ votes for Trump.

    (I believe this Sen. Graham also called Georgia officials, inquiring about changing the results as well.)

    On the same day the tape was made public, or the day after, the NYT story below came out: Trump and Justice Dept. Lawyer Said to Have Plotted to Oust Acting Attorney General from NYT

    Trump and the protegee of the acting Attorney General had a conversation about overturning the Georgia electoral results. The Acting AG and someone else tried to shoot down the idea twice. But then the lawyer, Jeffery Clark, told the Acting AG that Clark was going to replace him. When various different DOJ lawyers said they would resign if that happened. Trump eventually backed off.

    Katie Benner of NYT speaking about the story, which provides more contextual information, which explains why this was such a big deal (from about the 10:00 min mark to the 40:00 minute mark)

    I’m leaving out attempts to change the Michigan votes. (I’m pretty sure Trump invited two prominent Michigan Republicans to the White House to talk to him about this.)

    I’m also not including many other comments Trump made to undermine the legitimacy of the election as well as incite violence, before and after Election Day.

  3. I wish I knew the total number of congressional staffers, the total number of Republican staffers, and the number of Republican staffers who signed the letter. In any event, it’s worth listening to.

    2/7/2021

  4. I hope people are not forgetting how bad January 6 was–or could have been.

    Americans should be super angry about this. The mob chanting, “Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!” comes to mind and pisses me off, too.

    2/7/2021

    AOC’s account of that day:

    Ocasio-Cortez reveals she’s a sexual assault survivor, recounts ‘trauma’ of Capitol riot: ‘I thought everything was over from WaPo

  5. Responsible, patriotic Republicans also have a part to play

    Whatever failings these Republicans have had in this past, particularly with regard to defending the country against Trump, the following words are examples of leadership the country needs from Republicans now.

    Representative Liz Cheney.

    Senator Ben Sasse

    Senator Mitt Romney

    Here’s Romney’s speech on convicting Trump for the first impeachment.

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