In a 2019 ruling requiring the former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify at a congressional hearing about former President Donald Trump’s alleged abuses of power, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson declared that “presidents are not kings.” If we take that admonition from our next Supreme Court justice seriously and look at the evidence amassed so far by the House select committee on the Jan. 6 attack, we can — and in fact must — conclude that the prosecution of Mr. Trump is not only permissible but required for the sake of American democracy.
This week’s hearings showed us that Mr. Trump acted as if he thought he was a king, not a president subject to the same rules as the rest of us. The hearings featured extraordinary testimony about the relentless pressure to subvert the 2020 election that the former president and his allies brought against at least 31 state and local officials in states he lost, like Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He or his allies twisted the arm of everyone from top personnel at the U.S. Department of Justice to lower-level election workers.
The evidence and the testimony offered demonstrate why Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department should convene a grand jury now, if it hasn’t already, to consider indicting Mr. Trump for crimes related to his attempt to overturn the results of the election, before he declares his candidacy for president in 2024, perhaps as early as this summer.
Although a Trump prosecution is far from certain to succeed, too much focus has been put on the risks of prosecuting him and too little on the risks of not doing so. The consequences of a failure to act for the future of democratic elections are enormous. [Continue reading…]