New York, NY – Donald Trump should be prosecuted to the most extreme extent of the law.
The most egregious and urgent charge would be his inciting an American version of the Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 on Jan. 6, in which a mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol to disrupt the primordial function of representative democracy—the formal certification of voters’ choices and the orderly transfer of power.
This is part of his long pattern of contempt for democracy and conspiracy to commit election fraud, like trying to bully state officials to nullify the results of the election by legislative fiat or demanding that they “find” him votes.
Both the National Association of Manufacturers and the AFL-CIO, along with several other national unions, have called for Trump to be removed from office, on the grounds that he is too dangerous to be allowed to stay in power even for the less than two weeks before Joseph Biden is inaugurated.
“It’s clear that one more day of Trump in office represents a direct threat to the health of our republic, and we demand his immediate resignation,” the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers said in a statement Jan. 7. “If Trump does not resign, we call on Vice President Mike Pence and members of the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him.”
Trump has struck at the most fundamental principle of democracy—that the people vote to select the leaders who will govern them. It’s as elementary as the principle of sports that the team with the most points wins.
His claim that he actually won the election is either a danger-to-others level of delusional or a lie so extreme it should be a new definition of chutzpah. His basic argument is because he had a lead on Election Night, but results changed when mail-in ballots were counted—mostly from multiethnic cities like Atlanta, Detroit, and Philadelphia—that somehow fraud was committed.
This is as ludicrous as if Atlanta Falcons fans stormed the NFL’s offices to demand that their team be declared winner of the 2017 Super Bowl. In that game, the Falcons were up 28-3 in the third quarter, but the New England Patriots with Tom Brady rallied to win in overtime, 34-28. By Trumpian logic, that they blew a 25-point lead means the game was fixed.
The argument for not prosecuting Trump is that it would be “divisive” and rile up his supporters. Is that a valid argument when Trump fanatics waving Confederate flags and wearing “Camp Auschwitz” T-shirts trash the Capitol because Congress wouldn’t nullify the election? Is it good for democracy and equal justice when that mob was allowed to leave unmolested, when seven months before, more than 250 Black Lives Matter protesters in the Bronx were corralled and arrested for being out one minute after curfew?
In the Beer Hall Putsch, the Nazis, then a small far-right faction, invaded a beer hall where the governor of Bavaria was speaking and kidnapped him at gunpoint. The insurrection was put down within two days, but four police officers were killed in a shootout. Adolf Hitler, who’d announced the putsch and declared himself head of the new “national dictatorship,” was sentenced to five years in prison for treason, but was let out after 13 months.
There is a reason why “appeasement” is a word that has lived in infamy since 1939. And the storming of the Capitol was actively encouraged by a President trying to hold power after being defeated for re-election.
Trump also has a criminal history going back decades, of cheating workers out of pay and refusing to pay contractors money due them. There is a good chance New York State will indict him on tax-evasion charges, for practices like inflating the value of property while applying for a loan and minimizing it when paying taxes. (Predatory landlord Steven Croman spent eight months in prison on similar loan-fraud charges.)
Trump’s administration represented an unprecedented level of American political corruption. It went far beyond the traditional form that the New York Democratic machine boss George Washington Plunkett defined in 1905 as “honest graft”: providing public services, but taking a taste off the top in the process.
It also went far beyond the more upscale modern form, in which the financers of campaigns for high-level offices at the very least get much more access than ordinary citizens, and at most, dictate policy. “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’” former Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), said in 2017, when Trump’s tax-cuts-for-the-rich bill was pending in Congress. (Collins, convicted of fraud last January, served two months in prison before being pardoned by Trump last month.)
Trump represents a third level: Government as grift, the attitude that the primary purpose of public office is to purloin public resources for private profit. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seemed to view her agency’s function as protecting scam for-profit schools. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke awarded a $300 million contract to repair power lines to a two-man company from his hometown. It charged Puerto Rico’s utility $286 an hour for mechanics.
This griftery meshed with Trump’s racist policies in the person of Georgia gynecologist Dr. Mahendra Amin. Amin had been accused of billing Medicaid and Medicare for unnecessary procedures in 2013, and settled out of court in 2015. That didn’t stop the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement from hiring him to treat women locked up at a for-profit detention center in rural Georgia. Last month, 12 women interned there filed a lawsuit against Amin and ICE, accusing him of performing procedures like hysterectomies and vaginal ultrasounds unnecessarily and without their knowledge or consent, sometimes over their objections. Some victims who complained were deported.
Trump’s most inhuman crime was his policy of taking more than 2,800 immigrant children, most from Central America and Mexico, away from their parents and locking them in cages in separate detention centers.
Think about this. Imagine a 15-month-old baby. She’s still in diapers, but has just learned to walk, and she can say “mama” and a few other words. But instead of her family sharing the joys of the baby milestones that come almost every day, comforting her when she’s crying, she is torn away, with no idea where her mother is, and not enough words to communicate.
Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller insisted that this policy would be an effective deterrent against people crossing the border illegally. In June 2019, Justice Department lawyers argued in federal court that the legal requirement for “sanitary” conditions did not mean the government had to give detained children toothbrushes, towels, or soap.
Worst, the administration had no system to keep track of the parents and children separated. At least 545 children have not been reunited because the administration has no clue where their parents are.
Trump, Miller, and everyone involved in making and enforcing this policy should face 545 counts of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to violate people’s civil rights under color of law. Given his well-publicized attitude toward Latino immigrants, those charges should come with a hate-crime enhancement.