In the aftermath of Watergate President Gerald Ford issued a blanket pardon to his predecessor Richard Nixon for any crimes he may have committed as president of the United States. For decades I agreed with Ford’s action. My rational was that the nation had suffered enough and needed to move on. Today I am reversing my position. Let’s explore.
With the daily drip, drip, drip of evidence of the extent of President Donald Trump’s transgressions during the 2016 campaign and while in office it is apparent that he thinks in the end he will either get away with it all or walk away relatively unharmed. Part of that may simply be because he lives in the illusion I call the Donald Dome and part may well be because he looked at Nixon’s fate. When the end came Nixon resigned and lived a pretty good life in retirement with his family. Trump is probably envisioning that as his worst case scenario. That mindset certainly affects a risk/reward decision.
It’s like the shopkeeper with the well-known policy of asking for the product back when he catches a shoplifter and then letting them go. For the shoplifter there is no risk and only a reward. Nixon cheated but did not personally enrich himself. Trump is actually enriching himself and his family by virtue of his office in addition to cheating. That is somewhat similar to shoplifting since we own “the shop”.
I am still firm in my prediction that Trump’s presidency will end in resignation like Nixon’s. I could be wrong but impeachment followed by removal from office by the Senate is still a stretch since it would require 20 Republican Senators to cross over in the 116th Congress.
I have to touch on the possible (but I feel increasingly improbable) scenario of the simultaneous removal from office of Trump and Mike Pence. Little attention has been paid to Pence but there is reason to believe that while he was not involved in the initial crimes he is involved in the cover up. Any impeachment(s) will not take place until after the new Congress is seated (if they occur at all). By that time I expect Nancy Pelosi to be the Speaker and therefore third in line to the presidency. In our current political situation it would be too far of a stretch to expect enough Republicans to go along with simultaneously removing both Trump and Pence knowing that would result in a President Pelosi.
So now in my scenario we are looking at a resigned Trump and President Pence. Since Ford’s pardon (part of which was preemptive) of Nixon is not settled law the only thing that could stop a similar pardon of Trump by Pence is a Supreme Court ruling saying that it was too broad and limiting its scope to established crimes. I think it is questionable as to whether this Court would make such a ruling.
One of the reasons I favored Ford’s action for all these decades is that I feel imprisoning past rulers is the act of a banana republic not the world’s pre-eminent democracy. However under Trump the damage to America’s international image is already done. Trump has made us look like a banana republic by backing out of so many deals and putting a For Sale sign on the Oval Office door. I think the best way to send a message to the world that we are again the free world’s leader is to punish Trump. This will also send a message to any future scoundrels who want to use the office for personal gain and/or disregard our Constitution and laws.
People need to go to prison for what they have done to America and that includes Donald Trump! If the Justice Department policy – it is neither tested nor settle law – of not indicting a sitting president is to be utilized in this case then let Robert Mueller get a sealed indictment(s) and execute them after Trump leaves office. America’s reputation and international integrity are at stake.
To people of my generation Russiagate is almost a replay of Watergate. That’s twice in my lifetime and one time too many in the lifetime of my country.
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