The rule of law that underlies our democratic values finds its roots in the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who stated: “Passion influences those who are in power … Law is reason without desire.” Our second president John Adams stressed the importance of this concept for our fledgling democracy, insisting that “it may be a government of laws and not of men.” In order to preserve fidelity to the rule of law, Adams and our other Founding Fathers enshrined the separation of powers in our Constitution. They ensured that a neutral judicial branch would interpret and enforce laws passed by the Legislature and implemented by the executive branch. And they delegated critical responsibilities to the states, including the prosecution of most crimes. Neither the target of this investigation nor his defenders in Congress has any right to intervene in this prosecution, as they are trying to do.
Our criminal justice system includes vital protections against the awesome power of the prosecutor. The first is the grand jury, which decides whether there is sufficient evidence to support an indictment proposed by the prosecutor.
The second, of course, is the fundamental right to a trial by jury — 12 peers who must unanimously agree that the prosecutor has proven a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, the most stringent standard in our legal system.
If we are truly a government of laws, not men, then it follows that the law should bend for no person. Just like every other person, Trump has constitutional rights to a trial by jury, to confront his accusers and to legal counsel. If he believes that the legal basis for the charge is unfounded, he can make that argument to a judge, who decides the law.
But if there is evidence admitted at trial to convince 12 jurors that he committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt, then a prosecutor must decide whether to bring such a charge without fear or favor. If Trump is not charged because of concerns about the response from his supporters or because he is a presidential candidate, then our government ceases to be one of laws not men, and our great experiment of constitutional democracy will crumble. If Trump is not guilty, or if the charge is legally deficient, then a courtroom is the proper venue for a judge and jury to make those determinations, not the halls of Congress or the public square. [Continue reading…]