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A thought about our former president, our laws, and our future
I wake up this morning to read a number of Republican elected representatives assigning themselves the role of judge and jury in the Trump espionage case. Why do I write "judge and jury"? Because to declare the man not guilty is to take the place of the judicial branch.
It's one thing when an average citizen does this. We can all have our opinions. But it's quite another when a senator or a representative makes such a claim. The basis of our Constitution is the separation of powers. When elected representatives take the place of judges and juries, they violate that spirit. They tell citizens that the laws they make are in fact meaningless.
I read also of Republicans who suddenly talk about unequal treatment of Americans in our judicial system. Yes, that is a problem, one recognized by the millions of people who don't have the money to fund your campaigns or your lobbyists, or to fund teams of lawyers like Trump's. It's a problem for all of the typical Americans who see that people like Trump get off over and over again. Trump says that he is a wealthy man. To say that a wealthy man is above the law is making the real problem worse.
I read Republican politicians claim that a former president cannot be tried. If that were true, then every wealthy criminal would run for office, seeking their lifelong get-out-of-jail card. If that were true, then presidents in office and out of office would be incentivized to commit crimes. If that were true, Americans would quickly lose all confidence in the office of the presidency.
The job of the executive is to enforce the law. Putting the executive above the law makes nonsense of the Constitution. Does trying a former president make us a banana republic? No, not doing so makes us a banana republic, or really something worse. The moment we say that one person is above the law, we no longer have the rule of law. The moment we no longer have the rule of law, we cease to exist as any kind of republic.
In other republics with the rule of law (recent examples are France and Italy) former heads of state or government are in fact tried, and are sometimes, after due process, found guilty and sentenced. It happens and it has to happen. Citizens lose their trust otherwise. To say that it does not happen is simply wrong.
In our country, citizens play some interesting roles in the judicial branch. For example, they serve on grand juries, such as the one that issued the indictment of Trump on espionage and other charges. This is a process, one to be respected, especially by elected representatives.
None of this is political advice. These are just the words of a citizen who cares about the country. The political advice, however, would be this: if you commit yourself now to an anti-constitutional position, you will have a hard time extracting yourself later. Leaders come and go. A republic endures.
TS 9 June 2023
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