My New NY Times Oped on the Necessity of Indicting Donald Trump: “No One Is Above the Law, and That Starts With Donald Trump”

I have written this piece for the NYT. It begins:

In a 2019 ruling requiring the former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify at a congressional hearing about former President Donald J. Trump’s alleged abuses of power, Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson declared that “presidents are not kings.” If we take that admonition from our next Supreme Court justice seriously and look at the evidence amassed so far by the House select committee on the Jan. 6 attack, we can — and in fact must — conclude that the prosecution of Mr. Trump is not only permissible but required for the sake of American democracy.

This week’s hearings showed us that Mr. Trump acted like he thought he was a king, not a president subject to the same rules as the rest of us. The hearings featured extraordinary testimony about the relentless pressure to subvert the 2020 election that the former president and his allies brought against at least 31 state and local officials in states he lost, like Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He or his allies twisted the arm of everyone from top personnel at the U.S. Department of Justice to lower-level election workers.

The evidence and the testimony offered demonstrates why Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department should convene a grand jury now, if it hasn’t already, to consider indicting Mr. Trump for crimes related to his attempt to overturn the results of the election, before he declares his candidacy for president in 2024, perhaps as early as this summer.

Although a Trump prosecution is far from certain to succeed, too much focus has been put on the risks of prosecuting him and too little on the risks of not doing so. The consequences of a failure to act for the future of democratic elections are enormous.

There’s no denying that prosecuting Mr. Trump is fraught with both legal and political difficulties. To the extent that charges like obstructing an official proceeding or conspiring to defraud the United States turn on Mr. Trump’s state of mind — an issue on which there is significant debate — it may be tough to get to the bottom of what he actually believed, given his history of lying and doubling down when confronted with contrary facts. And Mr. Trump could try to shift blame by claiming that he was relying on his lawyers — including John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani — who amplified the phony claims of fraud and who concocted faulty legal arguments to overturn the results of the election. Mr. Trump could avoid conviction if there’s even one juror who believes his repeated lies about the 2020 election.

And, yes, there are political difficulties too. The “Lock Her Up!” chants at 2016 Trump rallies against Hillary Clinton for her use of a personal email server while Ms. Clinton was secretary of state were so pernicious because threatening to jail political enemies can lead to a deterioration of democratic values. If each presidential administration is investigating and prosecuting the last, respect for both the electoral process and legal process may be undermined.

That concern is real, but if there has ever been a case extreme enough to warrant indicting a president, then this is the case, and Mr. Trump is the person. This is not just because of what he will do if he is elected again after not being indicted (and after not being convicted following a pair of impeachments, one for the very conduct under discussion), but also because of the message it sends the future.

Leaving Mr. Trump unprosecuted would be saying it was fine to call federal, state and local officials, including many who have sworn constitutional oaths, and ask or even demand of them that they do his personal and political bidding

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