George T. Conway III posted a lengthy, but thoughtful, letter about Trump's legal troubles in yesterday's Washington Post. Here's a few highlights:
From the earliest days of his administration, it became painfully apparent that in all matters — including affairs of state — Trump’s personal well-being took top priority. Four years and two impeachments later, he has managed to avoid the full consequences of his conduct.
But now that run of legal good fortune may end. Trump departed the White House a possible — many would say probable, provable — criminal, one who has left a sordid trail of potential and actual misconduct that remains to be fully investigated.
President Biden himself should stay out of it, and rightly seems intent on doing so. His Justice Department, however, can’t and shouldn’t. Previous presidents and previous prosecutors gave former presidents a break for their misdeeds: President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard M. Nixon; independent counsel Robert W. Ray (Kenneth W. Starr’s successor) reached a plea deal with President Bill Clinton on Clinton’s last day in office.
Trump deserves no such grace.
Even before he incited the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, Trump had amassed an impressive slate of potential criminal acts — from before his presidency and during. His life amounts to a virtual issue-spotting exercise for any student studying criminal law.
Pre-presidential conduct: Campaign finance laws
Pre-presidential conduct: Bank, insurance and tax fraud
Clinton and Nixon were relieved of criminal liability, but at least they paid a price — and admitted some fault.
Trump has done neither.
Even before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Trump engaged in what was quite possibly criminal conduct in attempting to overturn his electoral defeat. With his recorded attempt to bully Georgia’s secretary of state into trying to “find 11,780 votes,” just enough for Trump to win the state, he may well have crossed the line. So, too, weeks before, he pressured a Georgia elections investigator into trying to “find the fraud” that didn’t exist.
The failed putsch that prompted Trump’s most recent impeachment likewise presents Trump with potential criminal peril.
No doubt that was a major consideration in appointing a federal judge of utmost integrity — in the eyes of Democrats and Republicans — to serve as attorney general. To help ensure fairness and the perception of fairness, Merrick Garland should invoke the Justice Department regulations designed to deal with politically charged investigations: the rules providing for appointment of a special counsel. Those require the appointment of outsiders to investigate, and, just as important, require the preparation of reports that explain what an investigation found and did not find. That’s critical here because the main point of proceeding with an investigation is to vindicate publicly the rule of law.
But here’s the rub: With Trump, there’s so much to investigate criminally that one special counsel can’t do it all.
Three or four special counsels are needed. Under the regulations, each would be accountable to the attorney general.
If that feels like overkill, hark back to the reason it’s required.
The laundry list of potential crimes is the product of the brazenness of Trump’s behavior over decades. Trump’s modus operandi has been to do whatever he considers necessary in the moment and thinks he can get away with. It worked for far too long. Trump has managed to avoid serious legal repercussions — not just during his four years as president, but throughout his life.
Trump’s presidency has ended. So, too, must his ability to dodge the consequences.