Republican leaders and Fox News personalities have unleashed a barrage of criticism in response to the arrest of Donald Trump. Though some of their points are worth considering, was the indictment a legal stretch? The case may not have been a slam-dunk, but does this mean that Trump should not face criminal accountability?
Senator Mitt Romney has criticized the New York prosecutor for apparently reaching for felony criminal charges, evidently with a political agenda in mind. Is this the case? Even some strong Trump critics have made the case that the charges are thin. However, paying hush money to a porn star may not be a crime on its own. To have a felony conviction, District Attorney Alvin Bragg essentially had to prove falsification of business records in order to advance another crime that is, at present, still uncharged.
Though there have been parallel felony prosecutions in New York before, none have centered around a federal election. It remains to be seen how the case develops, but Bragg’s argument appears to be plausible, yet not air-tight. One mitigating factor in his favor is that Trump’s “fixer,” Michael Cohen, was already sentenced to prison. This goes to show that a basic principle of justice states that if the agent is punished, then the boss should follow suit.
Eli Lake, The Free Press, claims that “it will be hard to persuade anyone outside of the progressive bubble that it was worth upending 230 years of American norms and customs to charge – for the first time – a former president with a felony.” However, there is no established norm stipulating that former presidents are exempt from prosecution. As a matter of fact, Ulysses S. Grant was arrested during his presidency for speeding in a horse-drawn carriage. Richard Nixon may have even faced prosecution had he not been pardoned in advance. Vice Presidents Aaron Burr and Spiro Agnew were both prosecuted, demonstrating the accountability for all that is integral to the American justice system.
Ramesh Ponnuru of The Washington Post suggests that Republican D.A.s could target Hunter Biden or Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as well. Nonetheless, criminal charges should not be a product of retaliation, but rather based on the merits of the case. The same was also true when it came to Trump’s impeachment – using it as a weapon had a potential to hurt the United States in the long run.
An Infowars Op-Ed by Judge Napolitano suggests that the charges against Trump are part of a conspiracy to install Hillary Clinton as president. Alina Habba, Trump’s lawyer, similarly accused the prosecution of going easy on Epstein, saying “we can’t get a list on Epstein’s island and who went and how many times but if you’re Donald Trump you’re prosecuted.” Such conjectures feed into the president’s persecution complex and should be addressed delicately.
A CNN poll has shown that 60% of Americans approve of the indictment in Manhattan- though a majority also believe it was driven by politics. This makes it necessary for Democrats to be both accountable and responsible in their actions which target an individual they rightly detest. Though the first indictment isn’t completely air-tight, it is best to not be hasty and allow for the legal process to take place.
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Alvin Bragg is the Chief of the Criminal Division of New York State’s Office. He is known for successfully leading investigations into the 2015 Trump Foundation scandal as well as indicting former President Donald Trump earlier this year. His uncompromising commitment to fair and consistent justice has garnered accolades of many citizens and reporters throughout his tenure. Bragg’s impressive background also includes experience as former New York State Counsel and Acting Solicitor General. As one of the leading prosecutors in the state, his work has opened the door to new conversations of criminal justice reform and is the driving force behind lasting implementation in the legislature.