Prosecuting Trump Is a Terrible Idea

Law professor makes the case that it would be futile and would probably backfire
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2020 10:20 AM CST
Prosecuting Trump Is a Terrible Idea
President Trump speaks with reporters after participating in a video teleconference call with members of the military on Thanksgiving at the White House.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Should federal prosecutors go after President Trump when he's out of office? A former member of Robert Mueller's team thinks yes. But in a New York Times op-ed, law professor Eric Posner argues strongly against it. Trump's critics cite allegations of obstruction of justice, the improper blurring of Trump's finances with his presidency, and his dealings with Ukraine in regard to the Bidens. Good luck proving criminal charges on any of those things, writes Posner. "There is little evidence that Mr. Trump did commit crimes as president," he writes. "A conviction, given what we know now, is all but impossible." He likens the situation to Trump's demands for investigations into Hillary Clinton, Biden, and Barack Obama, which have been "rightly condemned." The push to prosecute Trump should be similarly condemned, he argues.

Take the obstruction charge, for example. "The president is the prosecutor’s boss, and while his authority is not limitless, there is no recognized legal standard for distinguishing 'obstruction' of a case by a president that is legitimate (like President Barack Obama’s refusal to allow investigations of George W. Bush-era torturers) from that which is illegal," writes Posner. Pushing prosecution is a no-win situation for Democrats, he adds. Any such case would likely end up in a triumphant acquittal for Trump. And even if one did succeed, it would cement Trump's status as a political martyr who became a target of the so-called deep state. "If the goal of a trial of Donald Trump is to renew American faith in government, the effect will be the opposite." Read Posner's full column. (Whether Trump could pardon himself may hinge on a single word in the Constitution.)

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