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It could easily happen here, and soon

Ted Rall on

You don't want to lose your job. How would you feel if getting fired would mean that you would spend the rest of your life in prison? You would do anything to keep working.

Anything.

That's the position in which Donald Trump finds himself.

The president is the target of a myriad of congressional, state and federal investigations into his business practices. Trump could resign in exchange for a deal with Mike Pence to pardon him as Gerald Ford did for Richard Nixon, or hope for a victorious Joe Biden to do the same in the spirit of looking forward, not backward.

But a presidential pardon wouldn't apply to the biggest threat to Trump's freedom: the New York-based inquiries by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, New York's attorney general and the Manhattan D.A.'s office into hush payments former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen made to Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film actor Stormy Daniels, violations of the Constitution's emoluments clause and Trump's business practices in general.

It's highly unlikely that, as long as he continues to reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump will be frog-marched into a police van. Many legal experts argue that presidents enjoy at least temporary immunity from prosecution. Department of Justice memos dating to 1973 state that, as a matter of policy though not law, a sitting president should not be indicted.

 

If Joe Biden maintains his double-digit lead in the polls, however, Trump stands to lose his executive immunity from prosecution early next year. At age 74, even a five-year prison term could effectively become a life sentence. What would Trump be willing to do to avoid that?

In the back (not all the way back) of Trump's mind has to be the possibility of canceling the election.

There has been speculation, from such notables as Hillary Clinton, that Trump might refuse to leave the White House if he loses to Biden. Indeed, Trump has fed rumors that he plans to discredit the results in case of a loss. He says mail-in balloting would be plagued by fraud and foreign interference and refuses to commit to accepting the results. If I were the president, I would reject this option. Refusing to leave would be far from certain to allow him to remain in office more than a few weeks or months.

Another crisis scenario making the rounds has Republican governors loyal to Trump refusing to certify the results in their states. Under one of the more arcane sections of the Constitution, the final result would be determined by the House of Representatives under a one state delegation-one vote scheme. Most states are majority Republican, so Trump would probably win. Trump shouldn't go with this plan either. Relying on the feckless House of Representatives process would leave too much to chance.

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