Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Tuesday, October 3, 2023

What would the GOP have prosecutors do with evidence against Trump?

by admin
What would the GOP have prosecutors do with evidence against Trump?

When it comes to the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack, former Vice President Mike Pence has a unique perspective. After all, the Indiana Republican was one of the key targets being hunted by rioters who intended to do him harm, and as Pence himself has explained, Donald Trump’s lies put his own family in danger.

But as the former president faces the prospect of another criminal indictment, his former right-hand man still isn’t on board with the idea of legal accountability. NBC News reported:

Former Vice President Mike Pence, a Republican presidential contender, said Sunday that Donald Trump’s actions leading up to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, were “reckless” but that he’s “not yet convinced” they were crimes. “While his words were reckless, based on what I know, I am not yet convinced that they were criminal,” Pence said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The Hoosier added that he believes “history” will hold Trump accountable.

It’s a line that would likely be popular with a great many criminal defense attorneys. I can imagine all kinds of lawyers saying during arraignments, “Your honor, our system of justice might call for a jury trial, but defense counsel prefers to let history render its own verdict instead.”

But as is always the case, the context matters. CNN’s Dana Bash began her interview with Pence by asking a straightforward question: “If the Justice Department has evidence that [Trump] committed a crime related to January 6, you do not think he should be charged?” Pence responded by saying he did his “duty” under the Constitution the day of the assault on the Capitol.

And while that’s true, it was also a non-sequitur. The “State of the Union” host asked what Pence believes should happen if federal prosecutors have evidence that Trump committed a crime, and the former vice president ignored the point of the question altogether.

So, Bash tried again, asking, “If [prosecutors have evidence that] does point to an actual crime, you still think that it’s better for the country that he not be indicted and held accountable?” Pence immediately tried to change the subject.

At that point, the CNN host pressed on, raising the same question for the third time. “You still believe that the former president should be held to a different standard, if what you experienced turned out to be based in breaking the law, and that is shown through evidence found by the special counsel’s investigation?” Bash asked.

The former vice president dodged once again, saying he doesn’t know what Trump’s “intentions” were on Jan. 6 — which might very well be true, but which didn’t address the underlying question.

It’s not just Pence. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sat down with CNN’s Jake Tapper last week, and the host asked effectively the same question that Pence dodged yesterday.

“If [special counsel] Jack Smith has evidence of criminality, should Donald Trump be held accountable?” the host asked. The GOP presidential candidate responded by denouncing “criminalizing political differences,” which was an answer to a different question.

Tapper tried again, asking DeSantis, “Are you saying that if [Smith] finds evidence of criminality, he should not charge Donald Trump anyway?” DeSantis, once again, sidestepped the question, criticizing those who try to “criminalize political disagreements.”

At issue are basic, foundational questions for the GOP. In a nation that honors the rule of law, is a major American political party seriously prepared to argue that prosecutors can uncover evidence of a private citizen’s alleged crimes, and literally nothing should happen?

One of the implicit points the party has made repeatedly over the last year or so is that prosecutors never should’ve sought evidence of Trump’s alleged crimes in the first place. It’s an odd defense — it’s predicated on the idea that a tiny handful of private citizens, who used to hold the nation’s highest office, must be free of any legal scrutiny, no matter the seriousness of their alleged misconduct — but it’s also beside the point.

If prosecutors have credible evidence that Trump committed felonies, what do Republicans think they should do? Bring charges or look the other way?

The fact that the party hasn’t figured out how to answer the question says a great deal about the contemporary GOP, and none of it’s good.

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”

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