We need a criminal investigation into Donald Trump | Richard Wolff

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Donald Trump joked that he was so popular with his fans that he could literally get away with murder.

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose a voter,” he boasted while campaigning in Iowa in 2016.

The voters don’t matter. Here we are, 18 months into his presidency, before clear evidence that Trump conducted a criminal conspiracy to interfere with the 2020 election and the constitutional duties of Congress. He intentionally incited a violent mob he knew was armed to stage a coup attempt on Capitol Hill.

He knew from his own lawyers’ opposition to his many crackpot schemes that he was breaking the law.

But the US Department of Justice has apparently just started tackling the debate over whether it can even investigate the former president.

You have to wonder: if Trump shot someone on Fifth Avenue, would all of those prosecutors still be struggling with the question of whether they could or should indict him?

If you think this is a ridiculous question, you should ask yourself where is the line between prosecution and murder. The insurgents hit a policeman on the head with a metal bar: doesn’t that count as attempted murder?

What we already know from Tuesday’s House hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection is that Trump’s participation in the assault on Congress was critical and intentional. This led directly to violence. Trump’s closest aides deemed his conduct to be reckless, baseless and lawless.

But we kind of knew that at the time, because he said it all on stage and on social media. The henchmen of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers had to find out one way or another, and that meant it was all out in the open. But that doesn’t make it any less criminal.

What we have here is not so much a gun but a blazing hell that used to be an armory.

Hell, the former president is still apparently trying to tamper with witnesses to keep them from exposing his blatantly criminal behavior.

You don’t have to be a federal prosecutor to know that the standard for criminal conviction is beyond a reasonable doubt.

Is it reasonable to think that Donald Trump understood the effects of inciting an armed mob to come to a demonstration he promised would be wild?

Is it reasonable to assume that his incitement was intentional right after a messy West Wing meeting about overturning the election he had just lost?

Is it reasonable to think that violence and interference in an election could take place after he urged the crowd to come to the Capitol alongside him?

This is obviously beyond any reasonable doubt. And it’s certainly worth having a jury decide for themselves.

Don’t take my word for it. According to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll69% of Americans think Trump bears some responsibility for the attack on the police on Capitol Hill.

Even Brad Parscale, Trump’s own campaign manager, thought Trump had blood on his hands.

What is not reasonable is the current position of the Department of Justice. It is not at all clear why a former president, who is now a private citizen, lives in a kind of protective bubble that prevents criminal investigations and charges.

According to New York Timesthe Justice Department was only prompted to “discuss the subject of Mr. Trump more directly” because of recent testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, the former aide to Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Protesters outside Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in June. Photography: Gina M Randazzo/Zuma/Rex/Shutterstock

It’s a wonderful turn of events. Mr. Trump’s subject must be a fascinating discussion in the halls of prosecutorial power.

So far, they’ve been immersed in what they call a “bottom-up” approach of catching lower-level criminals before moving on to higher-ups for some time in the Ron DeSantis administration.

This impressive legal strategy is likely not in line with the country’s longstanding efforts to fight organized crime or drug cartels. Otherwise, they would imprison peddlers and runaway drivers until the end of time.

Attorney General Merrick Garland insists the Justice Department investigates crimes, not people. There is a legal term for this argument, in the context of a conspiracy to commit serious crimes. It is similar to the excrement of male cattle.

The Justice Department has previously decided it cannot prosecute a sitting president — not for legal reasons but for logical reasons. At some point, the president may step in to stop his own prosecution so that any case eventually falls apart.

But that’s not the case with Trump. Past presidents do not run the Department of Justice. They have no constitutional protections beyond those of any citizen.

You may recognize that no Department of Justice wants to conduct a politically charged investigation. But this is a political decision, not a legal one.

Trump’s post-election conduct — pressuring state election officials to find fraudulent votes, conspiring to organize fake state voters, inciting a violent mob to storm the Capitol — is so egregious , obviously beyond the bounds of normal political conduct.

If the current Department of Justice cannot understand that – if it cannot understand how criminal acts are defined and what a reasonable doubt looks like – then it has no reason to exist.

Its sole purpose is to uphold the laws, and in this case, the laws are designed to protect democracy.

It’s not a difficult call. And it shouldn’t take a congressional committee to rouse them from their preachy slumber.

Almost a century ago, on Valentine’s Day of 1929, there was a massacre of gangsters in Chicago by a gang armed with machine guns posing as police officers. Their leader was soaking up the sun in Florida, where some criminal masterminds like to spend their free time.

Al Capone was not prosecuted and imprisoned for his participation in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. He was imprisoned for tax evasionafter refusing a subpoena to appear before a grand jury.

In the early days of law enforcement, they could see the importance of investigating both crimes and people.

There is only one principle more important than the Attorney General’s lofty approach to the sanctity of the power to prosecute. It’s called defending democracy.

If he doesn’t want to uphold the laws that protect the republic, he should step aside and let someone else do the job.

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