By JOHN KANELIS / firstname.lastname@example.org
Joseph R. Biden Jr. laid down an important marker a while back when he said he had no interest in pursuing federal criminal charges against his predecessor as president of the United States.
I’ll just get this off my chest: I think that was the correct course for President Biden to take. However, Biden made that judgment prior to the events that occurred on Jan. 6, which is the insurrection that Trump incited with that hideous speech on The Ellipse.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump a second time just one week after that tragic event. Joe Biden will take his oath of office just one week after the impeachment.
Trump will stand trial in the Senate. What the senators do, of course, remains the Question For the Ages. A conviction won’t remove Trump from office; he’ll be long gone from the White House. It would deny Trump the ability to seek public office ever again.
Should the Justice Department pursue criminal sedition charges against a former president if it determines there is evidence that he committed a crime by telling the mob to walk down the street and “take back the government”? If it doesn’t pursue them, does that let Trump off the hook, letting him get away with a punishable felony?
Here’s another question. Would a federal prosecution put the soul of the nation — which President Biden vowed to restore — in even more dire peril? Would such a prosecution inflict mortal wounds on our national psyche?
I now am officially undecided on the pledge that President-elect Biden made, that he has “no interest” in prosecuting Trump.
Joe Biden might have to assess the national mood in real time as he faces whether DOJ should proceed with prosecuting Trump.
I am not suggesting that Trump should avoid all prosecution. State authorities are looking into myriad other allegations leveled against the president. They involve campaign finance violations, his personal finances, the activities of his closest advisers and even his own family and a host of other matters. Local prosecutors’ ability and willingness to prosecute Trump are beyond the federal government’s reach, which renders DOJ’s view irrelevant.
What’s more, I also believe that local authorities need to keep looking until they determine whether they have enough to level charges. And if they don’t …
President Biden’s lengthy political career, burnished by his legal background, prepared him to ponder the decision he likely must confront.
If only Donald Trump had exhibited a scintilla of decency on Jan. 6 by telling the rioters to stand down. He didn’t. He incited them to attack the bastion of the government of this great nation.
That’s why President Biden faces an agonizing decision.