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Biden must investigate Trump!


I’m not happy that President-elect Biden seems to be ruling out federal investigations of Trump, the Trump family, and members of the Trump regime.

NBC News reported that “Biden has raised concerns that investigations would further divide a country he is trying to unite and risk making every day of his presidency about Trump.” More specifically, NBC reported that Biden “has specifically told advisers that he is wary of federal tax investigations of Trump or of challenging any orders Trump may issue granting immunity to members of his staff before he leaves office. One adviser said Biden has made it clear that he ‘just wants to move on.’” Vanity Fair adds this detail: Biden will “not interfere with the Justice Department’s judgment of whether or not they think they should pursue a prosecution.”

What are we to make of this? It brings to mind Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon back in 1974. Like Biden, Ford said he was pardoning Nixon in order to move on. “Someone must write the end to [the ongoing Watergate brouhaha],” Ford announced, adding, “I have concluded that only I can do that, and if I can, I must.” Ford’s pardon was extremely unpopular with the American people and was a likely factor in Ford’s subsequent failure to be re-elected in 1976.

It’s not clear to me that Biden is entirely telling the truth about why he won’t actively investigate Trump’s obvious crimes, which include colluding with Russia to win the 2016 election, obstructing justice on multiple fronts, violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, dodging taxes and other financial irregularities and, most recently, blocking an orderly transition to the Biden administration. The American people, having decided that Trump is a serial lawbreaker with no regard for the Constitution, are seriously interested in learning everything there is to know about Trump’s secret behaviors. They’re also justifiably interested in seeing any criminal behavior prosecuted and punished. Never in my lifetime (and this includes Watergate) have I seen the public so desirous of having a political figure brought before the bar of justice and put on trial.

Biden surely knows this; if he doesn’t, Kamala Harris can tell him. We’ve been told, over and over, what a fine, decent, upstanding man Joe Biden is. His character has been described as fair-minded and absent of resentment or anger. These things may well be true, but when Biden is President, starting at noon on Jan. 20, 2021, he’ll have responsibilities that range far beyond his natural inclinations to be Mr. Nice Guy. Democrats in particular have never been so outraged as they’ve been for the last four years, when Trump has insulted and demeaned the party, lied about it, stirred up hatred of Democrats among his evangelical and neo-fascist allies, blocked every bit of legislation Democrats have proposed, been nakedly partisan in the appointment of judges; and now, of course, Trump’s outrageous stunts to nullify the election. President Biden may be the de facto leader of the Democratic Party, but that doesn’t mean that everything he does must be signed off on by the 77 million Democratic voters who have made him President.

Will Biden’s Department of Justice pursue investigations of Trump, his family and Trump’s allies? I suppose we have to take Biden’s word for it that he “won’t interfere” with the Justice Department if they do decide to launch inquiries, but that’s a pretty lackadaisical approach. We don’t know who Biden’s Attorney-General will be, but he or she isn’t likely to do something as potentially historic and controversial as criminally investigating a former President without explicit clearance from the current President. Biden’s non-interference pledge, in other words, is empty rhetoric—designed by some phrasemaker to appease Democrats by holding out the possibility of investigations, even as everybody knows there won’t be any.

If Biden expects rank-and-file Democrats to simply accept this and “move on,” I think he’s sadly mistaken. The clamor for investigations, not just by the Justice Department but by the Congress, is only going to grow louder. Biden should renege on his vow, not only because it will be politically advantageous to him, but because it’s the right thing to do. However bad Nixon’s crimes may have been, they really amounted to a hill of beans in the longterm scheme of things. Trump’s crimes, by contrast, are massive, hugely destructive, and ongoing. To let him get off scot-free is a slap in the face to the Democrats who resisted Trump and Trumpism from Day One, who organized themselves despite the odds to get Biden elected, and who now expect something in return for their loyalty and support. What Biden has to give them—give us—is Trump in the courtroom dock.

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