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Opinion | Donald Trump and American Justice

BusinessOpinion | Donald Trump and American Justice


Mr. Trump’s vision of an American legal system that protects his interests goes beyond his trial, of course, and extends in particular to the Justice Department. He has been explicit about his desire, if elected in November, to bring the Justice Department more fully under his control, to use it to protect his friends and, more important, punish his enemies. As president, Mr. Trump had an unparalleled record of abusing presidential pardons, and if he is re-elected, he appears likely to order the Justice Department to drop the criminal cases against him or to try to pardon himself for potential crimes. To Mr. Trump, independent prosecutors and Justice Department officials are precisely the problem. They will say no to him when he wants to do things that are illegal or unconstitutional, choosing to be faithful to the Constitution rather than to him. This Mr. Trump cannot abide.

Mr. Trump has said he intends to find a prosecutor to “go after” Mr. Biden and his family, suggesting that he intends to pursue prosecution with little regard to evidence or facts. According to The Washington Post, he also wants to investigate figures in his administration whom he perceives as being disloyal to him, including John Kelly, his former chief of staff; William Barr, his former attorney general; and Gen. Mark Milley, the former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Mr. Trump has separately suggested General Milley should be executed for treason.)

As Mr. Kelly told The Post, “There is no question in my mind he is going to go after people that have turned on him.”

Mr. Trump has also repeatedly said that his prosecution is like no other. In fact, there are numerous examples of politicians, of both parties, who faced prosecution, and in some cases were convicted, during their candidacies. The former Texas governor Rick Perry, a Republican, ran for president in 2016 while under indictment for abuse of power. (Those charges were later dismissed.) Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat of New Jersey, was indicted on federal bribery charges, and may run for re-election as an independent.

The former president is singular in one respect: As much as he accuses others of warping the justice system, he is the one who consistently demeans and disparages the role of the courts and the exercise of due process. The leaders of the Republican Party, echoing the views of Mr. Trump’s fervent base of followers, have fallen in line behind him, indicating that they will continue to support his candidacy even if he is a convicted felon.



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