IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10 September 2020
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
The trial of former President Trump
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – If elected president, Joe Biden said more than a month ago he would rely on his attorney general to recommend any possible prosecution of President Donald Trump. We do not want to get ahead of ourselves here, but what happens to Trump if he loses the election is topmost in the minds of many voters, and it is not unreasonable to speculate what might happen.
The revelations in journalist Bob Woodward’s latest book, “Rage,” relies on taped conversations with Trump, including the revelation that he knew as early as February 9 that the covid-19 virus was highly infectious, that it spread through the air, and it was five times as deadly as the seasonal flu.
Yet the president says he downplayed the severity of the outbreak to avoid creating panic. He actively worked against public health measures by discouraging people from wearing masks, and he refused to utilize the full weight of the federal government to fight the virus. He golfed while people died.
In a court of law, it would be an act of malice, if not manslaughter, to withhold information that he knew could save lives. Now Woodward who with his partner Carl Bernstein investigated Watergate has brought forth a new set of tapes that recall the legendary question Sen. Howard Baker, R-Tenn., asked.: “What did the president know and when did he know it?”
President Nixon resigned after the tapes of his private conversations became public. One tape, dubbed the “smoking gun,” revealed Nixon had actively participated in the cover-up of the Watergate burglary, thus committing obstruction of justice, a crime.
Whether Trump’s allies and supporters will see the president’s admission that he lied about the severity of the coronavirus on the same scale as Nixon’s lies two generations ago will become evident in the next few months.
Holding office as president insulates Trump from some of the charges he is worried about. He has finally got his Roy Cohn in Attorney General Barr, someone who will be loyal no matter what and bend the law to ensure Trump’s survival. Barr’s latest gambit to move a New York case involving Trump’s alleged sexual assault of a woman in 1995 into the Justice Department is beyond precedent. Barr has put up a screen of “sovereign immunity” around Trump that removes him from accountability for virtually anything he might do or has done.
As for Biden, should he win the election, he cannot do what Pres. Gerald Ford did after assuming the presidency in the wake of Nixon’s resignation. Ford pardoned Nixon, and that act cost him his election in 1976.
Biden cannot make that mistake. He cannot give Trump a get-out-of-jail-free card. It would destroy his presidency before it got off the ground. What Biden can do is appoint an attorney general with impeccable credentials and credibility, a man or woman who is above reproach, a patriot who follows the law and whose recommendation would be as close as possible to being unassailable in the partisan world we now inhabit.
It is a tall order, and when we examine what potential wrongdoing Trump might be facing, the Southern District of New York is already on the case. Sooner or later, those tax returns Trump has so desperately kept from public view will come into view. What is he hiding? A Russian financial connection? Business misdeeds? Unwarranted tax deductions? Inconsistent asset valuations on loan documents?
Who knows? Perhaps he will simply seek sanctuary in a country that lacks an extradition treaty with America such as Chad, Comoros, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Nepal, Oman, Saudi Arabia, or Serbia – or, of course, Russia.
Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
© 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND
IMMEDIATE RELEASE 10 September 2020