Colson: Presidents should never be above the law
Donald Trump appears to be on the brink of some serious legal jeopardy.
Hit & Run
Man, oh man, the political legacy of former President Donald J. Trump has taken some pretty strange turns over the years, but what’s going on right now certainly would qualify for entry in that often comical, sometimes shocking syndicated newspaper column, “News Of The Weird.”
For those who have grown tired of all things Trump, and whose eyes glaze over with boredom and contempt if they merely hear his name, let me explain: The man appears to be on the brink of some serious legal jeopardy.
Over the weekend just past, I read several stories in The New York Times (along with cruising the World Wide Web to fill in a few gaps in the narrative) concerning developments that have made it crystal clear that Trump has committed some serious crimes over the past couple of years, and seemed to provide enough evidentiary fodder for any prosecutor to conclude that indictments are not only warranted, they are imperative.
Let’s look at the brouhaha over the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, the golf resort in Florida where Trump lives but which (and this is characteristic for con men and tax cheats) is owned by the company he controls, known as The Trump Organization.
According to analyses of the affidavit used to obtain a warrant for the Aug. 8 search (a redacted version of the affidavit was released last week), things got started back in May 2021, when officials with the National Archives and Records Administration concluded that Trump was holding onto a trove of official documents that somehow had gotten from the White House to Mar-a-Lago in the weeks following Trump’s loss of the 2020 presidential election and decampment from the Oval Office.
The agency’s inquires were stonewalled by Trump’s handlers and attorneys for seven months, however, and it was not until December of last year that the archivists were informed that there were, indeed, some 15 boxes of such documents at Mar-a-Lago, and that the archivists could come by to pick them up, which they did in January.
After turning up a couple of hundred classified documents, some of them at the highest secret level, the archivists believed that they hadn’t gotten all of the trove, and they referred the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice, which opened its own investigation.
We all know now that the joint probes (DOJ and NARA) resulted in the search at Mar-a-Lago, and the discovery of another big trove of classified documents, despite the claims of Trump and his attorneys that they had turned over everything back in January.
And here’s where it gets interesting.
Trump, who all this time has insisted he did nothing wrong, has also basically admitted in a left-handed way that he had made off with classified documents but claimed he had “declassified” them and so they belonged to him.
The problem, of course, is that the president cannot unilaterally, without any official paper trail (there is no such paper trail), declassify documents like that. So he is both admitting that he had them and that he knew they were there (he even wrote notes on some pages when he was perusing them, perhaps while seated on his golden throne in the bathroom).
So Trump has admitted that he violated the laws at issue here, though he probably is as surprised as anyone that he really has made that admission.
And at least some of those violations, if they make it before a judge, will be at the felony level.
Which means that if he is found guilty of the charges, he can never run for the presidency again.
Naturally, Trump and his supporters have been hollering to the heavens about “witch hunts” and other such balderdash.
One intriguing exercise right now is to imagine what Trump’s cadre of lickspittles and toadies in the Republican Party would be saying right now if the target of the DOJ probe happened to be a Democrat. In case you are unsure, let me tell you, they would be howling for blood and prosecution.
I mean to say, just recall the hyperbole and bile that arose from the GOP over Hilary Clinton’s email server, which turned into a nothing burger of the highest quality despite years of hearings and investigations by Republican legislators.
Back to the present: As the New York Times editorial board declared loudly last weekend, “Donald Trump Is Not Above The Law!”
And uncomfortable and potentially dangerous as it might be (those same lickspittles and toadies already are pounding their war drums and calling for civil war), the DOJ has no choice but to seek indictments if that is what is indicated by their investigative findings, which already have convinced many people that Trump “used the power of his office to subvert the rule of law” by trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election and in many other ways beyond his theft of documents.
To hold back now, out of fear of violence from Trump’s supporters, as The Times pointed out, “We (would be) saying he is above the law and giving license to future presidents to do whatever they want.”
Including the establishment of a dictatorship by minority rule in Washington, D.C., which at this point is a very real possibility.
It’s almost time to ring in the new year and if your holiday schedule is shaping up to be as packed as mine, I wish you a well-deserved rest in 2024. In the meantime, it’s our chance to party, and party we shall.