Editorial: Trump should never return to the White House
Published in Op Eds
The criminal indictment of a former president, regardless of the charge, is a momentous and sobering development.
The decision Thursday by a Manhattan grand jury to bring charges against Donald J. Trump, who is seeking to regain the presidency he falsely says was stolen from him, also raises concerns about possible violence and further political polarization.
Trump, who summoned his followers to Washington for a “wild” protest on Jan. 6, 2021, recently warned of “potential death & destruction” if he were charged as the result of District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation. Law enforcement must be prepared to respond to any violence reminiscent of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. (In a statement reacting to the indictment, Trump denounced it as “Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history,” but didn’t repeat his warning about “death and destruction.”)
Until the indictment is made public, it is impossible to comment on its specifics. But Bragg was reportedly investigating events associated with an alleged attempt to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, an adult-film performer who said she had an affair with Trump, before the 2016 election. (Trump denied her account.)
Bragg’s investigation arguably pales in significance compared with other ongoing investigations of the former president. Jack Smith, a special counsel appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, is presiding over criminal investigations of Trump’s handling of classified documents after he left the White House, and of his attempt to stop Joe Biden from assuming office. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in Atlanta is weighing potential indictments stemming from Trump’s attempts to change Georgia‘s 2020 election results.
Given those potentially more consequential investigations, some will argue that Bragg should have exercised his prosecutorial discretion and refrained from pressing this case. Bragg obviously disagreed. Now the soundness of the charges should be assessed by a jury in a trial in which Trump is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Trump, characteristically, seems bent on discrediting the prosecution with a conspiracy theory, and he is already receiving support from some Republicans in Congress. That makes it all the more important that the judicial system in New York afford the former president the due process to which any defendant is entitled.
But regardless of the outcome of this or any other prosecution, Trump has disqualified himself from any consideration as a candidate for the office he disgraced. That’s true regardless of the outcome of this criminal case.
To those who suggest that the indictment of a former president somehow threatens the office of the presidency, we would argue that nothing would so threaten the presidency, and the nation, as the election of Trump in 2024. He is a twice-impeached narcissist whose self-serving falsehoods about a stolen election inspired a terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Convicted or acquitted, Trump must not be returned to the White House. The Republican Party and, if necessary, voters can prevent that calamity, whatever judges and juries might decide.
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