Pardon Trump

Published August 11, 2022

By Thomas Mills

The raid on Mar-a-lago could not have come at a worse time for Democrats. While a lot of them are giddy about the prospect of prosecuting Trump, Republicans are now fired up to protect their leader, likely offsetting any advantage Roe v Wade may have given Democrats in enthusiasm. The incursion onto Trump property also totally shut down the discussion about Democrats’ successful legislative record. Instead of talking about addressing climate change and  lowering prescription drug prices, we’re going to be talking about Trump. That’s not the conversation Democrats should want heading into the midterms. 

Trump is a conman and grifter who almost certainly committed crimes while President of the United States. He’s also firmly in control of the Republican Party which is no longer loyal to the Constitution and no longer respects the rule of law. They are only beholden to Trump. The statements from GOP governors and Members of Congress mocked the FBI and Justice Department in an attempt to delegitimize the raid among the Republican base. I suspect they will be successful. As Damon Linker writes, “The rule of law can’t be vindicated if half the country thinks the effort to do so is a sham.”

I hope that the raid on Trump’s residence is about more than just withholding documents. I hope that it’s about criminal activity related to January 6 or some other grift. If it’s not, a lot of the country is going to see the raid as purely political. The FBI and Justice Department need to show that their rationale for the warrant justified the upheaval it’s causing in the country. 

That said, I don’t believe Trump should be prosecuted. Nothing good will come of it. A Trump trial will be little more than a platform for the former president. He’ll turn it into a reality show. The whole world will watch as the two sides of activists clash like some sort of professional wrestling match. Both sides will dig in and neither side will accept a verdict. 

Instead, the investigation should play out and prosecutors should indict every member of Trump’s inner circle who committed a crime. From Mark Meadows on down, people who planned or encouraged the assault on the Capital should go to jail. So should the people who tried to cover up the complicity. We need to have accountability. 

Then, Biden should pardon Trump. In his pardon, he should lay out all the ways that the president violated both his oath of office and the law. And then, he should make clear that he is pardoning him because we do not want to give even the hint of the impression that we lock up our political opponents in America. It should be an act of healing, not vengeance or even justice.

Trump’s loudest supporters may protest, but I suspect Biden can muster the gravitas to convince a majority of Americans that Trump should never be president again. If his underlings are all in jail or convicted, it will send a message that supporting insurrection or corruption has dire consequences, even if the boss gets a pass. The goal should be to get past this period of unrest and division, not prove that one side is right and the other wrong.