Though he has told allies he would rather not spend the majority of his administration dealing with the crimes of his predecessor, President-elect Joe Biden, the next attorney general may not have any choice, according to a senior prosecutor who was part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
During an interview with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi on Wednesday evening, Andrew Weissmann noted that after Biden takes office, a decision will have to be made regarding how aggressively to pursue Trump for crimes he may have committed while in office:
“We’re going to be, as of January 20th, 2021, in the situation where we no longer are talking about indicting the president but, rather, a former president, somebody who is a civilian. And the question’s going to be: Does the rule of law apply to that person? And it’s very hard to see an argument if it is shown, for instance, that in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office that the president has committed tens of millions of dollars of tax fraud or bank fraud or both. Any other person would normally be prosecuted, then it really shouldn’t be the case that just because he becomes president, that he shouldn’t have the day in court where a jury decides whether or not he committed those crimes prior to becoming president.”
Weissmann then went on to add that the Mueller team identified ten instances where Trump obstructed justice directly related to the special counsel’s probe and warned that a failure to prosecute those crimes would make all future special counsel investigations pointless:
“You have to remember in the Mueller report, there is substantial evidence that the president obstructed justice, in other words, obstructed the special counsel investigation. And to me, that’s even more important to vindicate. If you are not going to hold a president accountable for a special counsel investigation obstruction, then there’s no reason to actually have a special counsel in the future. In other words, the precedent that you’re setting in the future is don’t bother appointing a special counsel because there isn’t going to be any accountability to a president who obstructs that investigation.”
Velshi referenced a New York Times column that warned putting Trump on trial would be seen by the millions that voted for him as a direct attack on them as well. But Weissmann made it clear that the rule of law demands everyone be held accountable:
“You know, I think that’s looking at it the wrong way. Remember, a jury is going to have to make the decision and is going to have to find proof beyond a reasonable doubt in the same way any other defendant is entitled to all of the due process rights that we have in this country. And Donald Trump, if he were to be indicted, whether federally or by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, would enjoy all of those same rights in the same way, for instance, that Paul Manafort went to trial and a jury made up of citizens from a cross-section of the community made a decision regardless of politics, whether someone’s a Democrat or a Republican, just on the facts and the law. And Donald Trump would face the same kind of jury making that determination.”
Donald Trump needs to be held accountable and given his day in court. But that requires him being charged with the crimes he’s alleged to have committed. Justice demands nothing less.
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