Biden warns of fatal consequences as Trump stonewalls on the transition, and Whitmer faces more blowback over the restrictions in Michigan. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.
Biden and Harris speaking about the economic recovery in Wilmington, Del., yesterday.
Will Trump face federal prosecution?
One of Trump’s lawyers argued in court last year that the president was immune from prosecution throughout his term in office.
Could the president, an appeals court judge asked, shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, as he had talked on the campaign trail about doing? “That is correct,” the president’s lawyer, William Consovoy, replied.
It was a bold claim — and one that few legal scholars have endorsed. But what about after Trump leaves office? What’s to stop him from being prosecuted then?
Trump is already the subject of multiple investigations in New York stemming from his private business conduct: a criminal inquiry by the district attorney of Manhattan, and a civil investigation by the attorney general of New York State.
Yet there could be more, as our reporter Jonathan Mahler writes in a new article for The Times Magazine that seeks to answer the question of just how legally vulnerable Trump will be once he leaves the White House. Potentially criminal activity has unfolded throughout Trump’s term, Jonathan writes, and the only way to hold him legally accountable for things he did as president would be through federal prosecution.
Precedent points to leniency here: Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974, citing a need for national healing. Biden’s old boss, Obama, declined to prosecute former George W. Bush administration officials for authorizing the unlawful torture of detainees. But Trump’s case feels different.
“Every president seeks to exploit the immense power of the office, but Trump’s exploitation of this power represented a difference in both degree and kind,” Jonathan writes. “Trump stretched the limits of his authority not just to enrich himself and his family but to block investigations into his personal and official conduct and to maintain his grip on power.”
Prosecuting a former president — especially one who just received the second-most popular votes in United States history, and who continues to command the support of a devoted following — would be a complicated and risky gambit. You can read the full article, or listen to a narrated audio version of it, at this link.
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