As the Biden administration and Americans at large grapple with the fallout of the Trump era, folks are coalescing behind the idea of bringing a federal prosecution against ex-President Donald Trump and some of his political allies. Trial attorney and NBC News/ MSNBC legal contributor Katie Phang says that the “Biden administration needs to bring what I call a ‘season of reckoning’ for the corruption and grift that we have suffered through the last four years,” delivering appropriate consequences for the damaging chaos from Trump.
As summarized in a new report from Wajahat Ali at the Daily Beast, Phang also says that “if we want to see real change with the Biden administration and ensure that presidents are held to account, then we must first eliminate the Office of Legal Counsel’s guidance and existing precedent that a sitting president cannot be indicted for a crime.” When concluding his wide-ranging investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller cited this Justice Department guideline in explaining his decision not to bring charges against Trump over obstruction of justice, although Mueller made clear that he was not exonerating Trump, no matter claims from the ex-president and any of his allies to the contrary.
Law professor Jennifer Taub commented as follows:
‘It would be a big mistake to adopt a ‘Too Divisive to Jail’ message. While some people may believe moving on and ignoring the offenses committed by Trump and his enablers would bring the country together and encourage harmony, quite the opposite is the case. If being too divisive creates immunity, it will only encourage the worst behavior and partisan based violence and crime.’
Pointedly, experts including CNN legal analyst/ former deputy assistant attorney general Elliot Williams and former federal prosecutor Joyce White Vance cautioned against utilizing strictly political considerations in federal handling of Trump-related matters. As Williams put it, “Law enforcement should never be about payback, no matter how awful the decisions made by prior folks might have been.” Vance added that, unlike the Trump era, the current president’s team should have a “totally hands-off policy with the DOJ as far as criminal prosecutions and civil enforcements go.” As president, Trump repeatedly sought to meddle in matters at the Department of Justice.
At present, it’s not clear what the ex-president’s legal future might entail — as of this Monday, Biden nominee Merrick Garland hasn’t yet been confirmed as Attorney General, although there’s no particular indication that a confirmation isn’t on the horizon thanks to the Democratic control of the Senate. Trump is also facing criminal investigations from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, whose jurisdiction is in the Atlanta area.