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There are quite practical and important reasons to see beyond our justifiable anger and desire for retribution for the crimes of Trump. I refer not to his total and horrifying moral failings, but to actual crimes he may have committed. It matters to our republic and there is a history to make the point.
Ronald Reagan got away with Iran-Contra, having broken several laws, including contempt of Congress. To believe that he was ignorant and somehow, innocent of the high level scheming it took to pull off the three-way, illegal deal is to believe in the preposterous. Nevertheless, he got away with it.
His successor, H.W. Bush, pardoned six officials convicted of crimes related to the Iran-Contra scandal. Those pardons brought us Oliver North and G. Gordon Liddy on far-right talk radio, instead of hosting those criminals in prison. It also brought us the suspicion that the pardons were hush money Bush paid to hide his own involvement in the affair. Both Bush and the six perps got away with it.
George W. Bush pardoned “Scooter” Libby for perjury related to the outing of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame. That tied a ribbon around Bush’s duplicity over fictitious weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Libby walked.
W. Bush got away with lying us into two wars. Sadly, that isn’t criminally actionable, but he did get reelected, so he really did get away with his lies.
The big one, though, is Nixon, who got away with Watergate because of President Ford’s granting “a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in.” We all know that Nixon should have gone in jail, but that didn’t happen. He did resign, but in looking at Watergate through a judicial lens, he got away with it. Remember that Ford became Vice-President because of the opening left by the bribe taking, nolo contendere pleading former Vice-President, Spiro Agnew. Many wonder if Ford was offered the Vice-President post contingent upon his pledge to pardon Nixon. If so, not only did Nixon avoid the criminal prosecution he deserved, but Ford got away with that reprehensible agreement.
The point is that if Pence “Ford-pardons” Trump, all of Robert Mueller’s work is for naught and yet another chief executive will have escaped accountability for his wrongdoing. Trump will likely have gotten away with money laundering, conspiracy, collusion, fraud and various seditious acts. Failing to prosecute him may allow other bad guys to go free, as well.
I don’t care that much about impeachment, as I think Trump will resign before that can happen. After all, he’s told us that this President business isn’t as much fun as being the CEO of his fraudulent empire.
On the other hand, I do care a great deal about justice and the messages we send to our fellow citizens, as we stand on the wobbling tectonic plates of justice for all.
We have massive economic inequality and we have massive judicial inequality as well. For example, Blacks and Latinos go to jail for minor drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites, even though drug use is about the same in each group, according to Human Rights Watch. We have nearly no voter fraud, but Blacks, Latinos and the poor are prevented from voting by the nefarious schemes designed by the wealthy to deny our citizens the justice of their votes. All of this happens as we see those at the top get away with their malfeasance. And that undermines – even corrodes – our democracy.
So, beware President Pence’s first actions. He will be in a position to affirm the lofty claims we make about liberty and justice for all. He will also be in a position to loosen and shake still further the tectonic plates on which we stand. If he does that, if he “Ford-pardons” Trump, we may reach the tipping point of the erosion of our national confidence in ourselves.
Correction: This post incorrectly states that “Scooter” Libby received a Presidential pardon. He did not. President Bush commuted his sentence. But considering that he did no jail time, for practical purposes, he got away with it.
Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.
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Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
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