Thursday ReadsPosted: January 14, 2021
Yesterday Donald Trump was impeached for the second time, and this time ten Republicans voted yea. There won’t be a trial before Joe Biden is inaugurated, but one must be held after Trump leaves office. Furthermore, despite what James Comey says, Trump must be prosecuted for his crimes.
Grant Tudor and Ian Bassin at The Atlantic: Of Course America Prosecutes Its Executive-Branch Leaders.
Against the recent spectacle of an American president and his allies inciting an insurrection, such criminal misconduct by other chief executives appears almost quotidian. Illegally lining one’s own pockets is never good, but extorting public officials to manipulate election results is more than a difference of degree. One might assume, then, at this stage of things, that accountability for lawbreaking would be uncontroversial. And yet debate over the appropriateness of prosecutions for possible wide-ranging criminal behavior at the most senior levels of government is in full swing.
Various commentators have warned that prosecutions would “set a dangerous precedent” of punishing political opponents. Others have cautioned against the risk of creating martyrs or exacerbating polarization. After January 6, some changed their minds. But many others have not, speculating that the risks are still “just not worth it.” Even President-elect Joe Biden has made clear that he hopes to avoid “divisive” investigations. Although he has committed to a Justice Department that will operate with independence, “he can set a tone about what he thinks should be done,” as one adviser put it. And the president-elect has indicated that he “wants to move on.”
This would be a mistake. It not only contradicts the available evidence on how best to guard against the recurrence of serious transgressions, but also stands in odd contrast to how our own “laboratories of democracy”—the states—deal with misconduct by powerful executive-branch officials. Indeed, federalism provides the privilege to test government actions on a smaller scale in order to base more consequential federal decisions on evidence, not speculation. And the evidence from U.S. states is clear: When the rule of law runs its course, it typically prevails, and without precipitating a crisis.
A chief reason states prosecute their most powerful public officials is that prosecutions help deter future lawbreaking. Insofar as the law is applied consistently—without regard for the profile of the person in question—prosecutions send clear signals. Beliefs about the probability of punishment operate forcefully on people’s decisions.
Criminal affirmance—the tacit condoning of dangerous behavior in the absence of prosecution—also sends a clear signal. Research shows that, especially with elite criminal behavior, not pursuing punishment works to undermine confidence in government by visibly carving out exceptions in the rule of law, and broadcasts to other powerful actors that criminality is rewarding. As Mary Ramirez, a former trial attorney with the Justice Department, observed in the aftermath of the 2009 financial crisis: “A petty thief that evades prosecution has virtually no impact on the rule of law, but a CEO that evades prosecution … is an advertisement.”
Read the rest at The Atlantic.
An example of prosecution of a former public official being prosecuted for crimes committed in office is taking place now in Michigan. AP: Ex.-Michigan Gov. Snyder charged in Flint water crisis.
Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged Wednesday with willful neglect of duty after an investigation of ruinous decisions that left Flint with lead-contaminated water and a regional outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.
The charges, revealed in an online court record, are misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The charges are groundbreaking: No governor or former governor in Michigan’s 184-year history had been charged with crimes related to their time in that office, according to the state archivist….
Besides Snyder, a Republican who was governor from 2011 through 2018, charges are expected against other people, including former officials who served as his state health director and as a senior adviser.
The alleged offense date is April 25, 2014, when a Snyder-appointed emergency manager who was running the struggling, majority Black city carried out a money-saving decision to use the Flint River for water while a regional pipeline from Lake Huron was under construction.
The corrosive water, however, was not treated properly and released lead from old plumbing into homes in one of the worst manmade environmental disasters in U.S. history.
Despite desperate pleas from residents holding jugs of discolored, skunky water, the Snyder administration took no significant action until a doctor reported elevated lead levels in children about 18 months later.
Trump cannot be allowed to escape accountability for the damage he has done to the country, no matter how long it takes. In addition, Republican Congresspeople who aided and abetted Trump in his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election should also be punished, ideally by expulsion from the House and Senate.
Did some lawmakers go further by actually helping the rioters who attacked the Capitol on January 6? The Washington Post: Democrats demand investigation of whether Republicans in Congress aided Capitol rioters.
More from Buzzfeed News: Capitol Police Officers Said They Wouldn’t Be Surprised If Members Of Congress Helped Plan The Attack.
After seeing one of their colleagues killed last Wednesday, Capitol Police officers are angry that Republican members of Congress refuse to submit to the security changes put in place since then, and say they wouldn’t even be surprised if some lawmakers helped organize the attack.
Officers told BuzzFeed News that members of Congress often see security as optional. Even after last week’s deadly attack, some Republican members refused to go through metal detectors, pushing their way past Capitol Police officers.
“Officers are fuming and there are mumbles of several walking off the job,” one officer with more than 10 years on the force told BuzzFeed News — just as Republicans took to the floor last night to rail against even basic security measures. At one point today, officers set up tables around the metal detectors in an effort to block Republicans from just walking by them.
One of the officers said it’s not unusual for members of Congress to bring dozens of people at once and insist that visitors be waved past security. Officers’ concerns were echoed by some Democrats who have been speaking out about the state of security at the Capitol, and the potential involvement of members in the planning of the insurrection….
Two of the officers who spoke to BuzzFeed News said it wouldn’t surprise them if lawmakers had been involved. “There are definitely some members who need to be held to account once an investigation shows the totality of circumstances,” one said, in a sign of how betrayed some officers feel in the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol.
Yesterday, massive numbers of National Guard troops were stationed at the Capitol and other sites in DC. The Washington Post: Security footprint grows in nation’s capital ahead of inauguration.