Opinion | Prosecute Trump? It’s Complicated

To the Editor:

Re “Should Trump Be Prosecuted?” (Op-Ed, Nov. 28):

Andrew Weissman makes a compelling case that the next attorney general should prosecute Donald Trump for crimes he may have committed as president. He is right to say that nobody, and especially not the president, is above the law. But it would still be the wrong thing to do.

President-elect Joe Biden understands that this is a moment for reconciliation rather than recriminations. With a pandemic still raging and a nation profoundly divided, with 74 million people having voted for Mr. Trump in spite of his despicable behavior, it is time to heal if possible. Pressing criminal charges against the former president, as tempting and justified as that might be, would make the task of unity impossible.

Joe Biden should emulate President Lincoln. As the Civil War was concluding, Lincoln advocated for no reprisals, even against people who took up arms against the United States. He knew that to bind the nation’s deep wounds, that was the only path. Lincoln was right then, and that is the right approach now.

Steven Sanders
Troy, N.Y.
The writer is a former member of the New York State Assembly.

To the Editor:

Re “Prosecuting Trump Is a Very Bad Idea” (Op-Ed, Dec. 4):

Eric Posner argues persuasively that it would be unwise to prosecute Donald Trump for federal crimes he may have committed while in office. Perhaps then a more promising strategy might be for Congress to determine whether there are some potential legislative remedies for the kinds of behavior Mr. Trump displayed while in office — behavior that has made his presidency probably the most lawless in our history.

For starters, Congress might consider laws that would require candidates for the presidency to disclose their tax returns. And how about laws relating to conflicts of interest? And laws governing the issuance of pardons?

If indictment is not the way to go in Mr. Trump’s case, what can be done to prevent the threats posed by the Trump presidency from recurring in future administrations? Given the stakes, doing nothing is not a viable option.

Aaron Schneider
New York

To the Editor:

Andrew Weissman’s and Eric Posner’s competing views should be tested, not debated.

Neither Mr. Weissman nor Professor Posner can know what a full and fair criminal investigation of Mr. Trump’s conduct in office would show. A full and fair investigation would be one unencumbered by the substantial constraints attending Robert Mueller’s investigation.

A wise attorney general under the Biden administration would direct that an investigation proceed apace. The results would either bear out Mr. Weissman’s view that there is “ample evidence” of Mr. Trump’s criminal conduct or Professor Posner’s view that there is “little evidence” that Mr. Trump committed crimes as president.

Or come out somewhere in between: ample evidence as to some crimes, little evidence as to others.

Robert E. Lehrer
The writer is a lawyer.

To the Editor:

Nothing could be more harmful to the credibility of our justice system than allowing someone to blatantly be above the law.

President Trump’s critics, myself included, would feel thoroughly betrayed by our government if he was not prosecuted after leaving office. Enduring the lack of indictments over his many atrocities while in office was bad enough. I believe in the rule of law, and expect that everyone will be treated the same under it. We’ve waited long enough for this offender to face justice.

Letting him off the hook now would destroy my trust in the justice system. And if Mr. Trump was not prosecuted, future presidents would assume that they, too, can get away with anything.

Nancy Bennett O’Hagan
Portland, Maine

To the Editor:

Of course, in any rational world, Donald Trump should be prosecuted, and likely found guilty, for his many acts of corrupt malfeasance. But we do not live in a rational world.

Many of us may know that any such prosecution would be on its merits, and not simply political vengeance. But 74 million Americans who voted for Mr. Trump will not see it that way. And when the Republicans return to power, as they most certainly will one day, political payback will be inevitable. And we will simply begin, to borrow Lin-Manuel Miranda’s words from the song “My Shot,” “an endless cycle of vengeance.”

The price of Donald Trump getting away with the havoc he caused is great. The price of inviting a never-ending cycle of prosecution as political retribution, however, would be even greater. Let him go.

Richie Feder

To the Editor:

The incoming Biden administration could offer a “truth and reconciliation” process as an alternative to questionable pardons. The process, open to all persons linked to the Trump administration, could follow the South African model.

In return for submission of testimony and supporting evidence, those opting to participate in the process would be offered exoneration. Proceedings would be public. The benefits would be lower cost, certainty of outcomes and, unlike pardons, a public record of misdeeds.

Given the likelihood that prosecution would inflame partisan rancor, what better way to move the country toward healing.

William R. Sherman
Charlottesville, Va.

To the Editor:

Democrats should play hardball. In exchange for not investigating or prosecuting Donald Trump, he and members of his family would agree not to run for public office or hold a position in the Republican Party. This would give Republicans the opportunity to restructure their party. And Americans could look forward to a future without Donald Trump.

Edna Schenkel
Aventura, Fla.

To the Editor:

President Trump could be indicted but there is virtually no chance that he would ever be convicted. Given his massive support, it is almost certain that even in New York there would be at least a few of his loyalists on a 12-person jury who would believe anything he said, no matter the evidence, which is precisely what is happening now.

Harold J. Smith
White Plains, N.Y.

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