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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“Ron Johnson now says he helped coordinate effort to pass false elector slates to Pence, but his new explanation drew a quick rebuke”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

After initially claiming to be “basically unaware” of an effort by his staff to get fake presidential elector documents to Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said Thursday he coordinated with a Wisconsin attorney to pass along such information and alleged a Pennsylvania congressman brought slates of fake electors to his office — a claim that was immediately disputed. 

Evidence presented this week by the U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol showed Johnson’s chief of staff tried to deliver the two states’ lists of fake presidential electors for former President Donald Trump to Pence on the morning of the U.S. Capitol insurrection but was rebuffed by Pence’s aide.  

Johnson initially told reporters this week he did not know where the documents came from and that his staff sought to forward it to Pence.

But he said in a Thursday interview on WIBA-AM that he had since discovered the documents came from Pennsylvania U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, and acknowledged he coordinated with Dane County attorney Jim Troupis and his chief of staff by text message that morning to get to Pence a document Troupis described as regarding “Wisconsin electors.” 

Kelly’s office immediately pushed back on Johnson’s claim, saying: “Senator Johnson’s statements about Representative Kelly are patently false.”

“Mr. Kelly has not spoken to Sen. Johnson for the better part of a decade, and he has no knowledge of the claims Mr. Johnson is making related to the 2020 election.”

On Thursday, Johnson said Troupis contacted him by text message on the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, to get a document on “Wisconsin electors” to Pence.

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“Gov. Kemp to testify in Fulton County’s Trump probe”

AJC:

Gov. Brian Kemp will deliver testimony next month to Fulton County prosecutors investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 elections, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

But unlike the parade of witnesses who have appeared at the Fulton courthouse to answer questions in front of a special grand jury, the Republican will instead deliver a “sworn recorded statement,” according to a letter from the Fulton County District Attorney’s office dated Wednesday and obtained by the AJC on Thursday.

In the letter to Kemp’s attorney, Nathan Wade, a special prosecutor hired by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to help with the investigation, said the DA’s office agreed to the terms “in a spirit of cooperation with the Governor and his schedule.”

Kemp’s sworn examination will take place on July 25.

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“Jan. 6 Panel Outlines Trump’s Bid to Coerce Justice Dept. Official”

NYT:

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol painted a vivid picture on Thursday of how former President Donald J. Trump directed a wide-ranging bid to strong-arm the Justice Department into overturning the 2020 election, the most brazen attempt by a sitting president since Watergate to manipulate the nation’s law enforcement apparatus to keep himself in power.

In a stunning display of evidence, including testimony from top officials who resisted the former president’s efforts, the committee laid out how Mr. Trump tried repeatedly to use the Justice Department to interfere in the election. In near-daily conversations, he badgered its leaders to act on unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, including wild internet hoaxes, accusing them of failing to do their jobs. He explored naming a conspiracy theorist who was circulating outlandish stories of voting irregularities to serve as a special counsel to look into possible election misdeeds.

“Why don’t you guys just seize machines?” Mr. Trump demanded to know at one point, later calling a top official at the Homeland Security Department when informed that voting machines fell under that agency’s purview, not the Justice Department’s.

When top Justice Department officials repeatedly told him that they had investigated and debunked his allegations of widespread election fraud, Mr. Trump said they need not find evidence. “Just say the election is corrupt and leave the rest to me,” he told them.

And when the officials refused to comply, Mr. Trump embraced a plan to remove the acting attorney general and install a loyalist, Jeffrey Clark, to do his bidding. During a heated showdown in the Oval Office, only the threat of a mass resignation at the department persuaded Mr. Trump to back down.Image

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