By Lance Simmens
No doubt most Americans being bombarded with the intricacies of our legal system and the long list of delay tactics being employed by the former president are frustrated over a never-ending circle of false alarms about how to proceed, assuming there is sufficient evidence to warrant prosecution. Complicating and exasperating the unprecedented number of both criminal and civil investigations facing Donald Trump has been a world coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, a Russian war of aggression in Ukraine that has united democratic nations and seemingly consolidated authoritarian nations where the potential for nuclear attacks have been carelessly tossed about and serious inflationary jolts to the world economic order affecting all nations. Alas, great uncertainty has millions upon millions of citizens impatient, scared, and leery of the immediate future.
It is long past time to either put up or shut up. While not an attorney, I do believe that impatience is growing by the minute and there either is/are a case or cases to be made where the evidence is sufficient enough to prosecute or there is not. I believe that the key ingredient in this sorry chapter in our nation’s history and what is so far missing is an overarching commitment to accountability. More specifically, our system must regain the confidence of our citizens that if you are found guilty of a crime you should be adequately punished, no more no less.
Regardless where one stands on the political/ideological spectrum there should be overwhelming support for a proposition that has existed for over 1,000 years (the Magna Carta dates back to 1215) namely: no person is above the law. To wit, a recent Reuters/Ipsos Survey concluded “Nine in ten Americans (88%) agree that Donald Trump is not above the law, including 94% of Democrats, 89% of Republicans and 79% of independents. Eighty-five percent of Americans say if Donald Trump broke the law, he should stand trial, including 94% of Democrats, 79% of independents, and 80% of Republicans.”
Furthermore, “Nine in ten Americans, including an even number of Democrats (88%) and Republicans (86%) say that violent acts are not acceptable to achieve their idea of a better society … and eighty-six percent of Americans believe it is not acceptable for a member of their party to threaten/intimidate others to achieve a political goal.” Thus, using threats that blatantly suggest “death and destruction” if he is indicted is a losing proposition.
According to the Library of Congress (LOC), “Chapter 61 of King John’s Magna Carta stipulates that twenty-five barons should be selected to ensure that the king upholds all of the provisions of the charter. When the king is in violation, the barons have the authority to seize the king’s properties by military force — “or distain” him — until he complies.” Hence, the checks and balances stipulated in the Magna Carta reinforce the supremacy of the law over the will of the king. Hence, no one is above the law, not even a king.
According to the LOC, the framers of the Constitution addressed the issue by including “the checks and balances that operated between the three branches of government were a means to prevent any single branch of the government from governing capriciously … Magna Carta remains to the present day an especially potent symbol for those seeking to lift the powers of the executive branch of government.”
Another disgraced former president, Richard Nixon, told British journalist David Frost in a televised interview in 1977 that if the president says it “that means that it is not illegal.” He was wrong then, and Trump is wrong now, just as anyone who believes they are above the law is grossly misinformed.
What I find so disturbing about the current investigations is the extent to which individuals with material means have the ability to twist and turn the prosecutorial process so as to run out the clock whether it be via statute of limitations or never-ending litigious maneuvers which constitute delay through frivolity or so-called judge shopping, a process of filing several lawsuits that assert the same claim done with the intent of having one of the lawsuits assigned to a favorable judge. Much the same can be said when the Fifth Amendment is used to thwart the legal process. It reeks of guilt.
Let us all agree that everyone is entitled to due process and the judicial system serves as the final arbiter to resolve accountability when sufficient evidence is presented to a jury of one’s peers and a verdict is rendered. The U.S. Constitution serves as a living embodiment of democratic principles that is constantly being refined and defined. The checks and balances serve as protections against overreach by either individuals or institutions and while sometimes maddeningly seen as impediments to speedy resolve are intended to ensure that accountability and fairness are built into a functioning system of justice for all, and that includes former presidents.