“Donald Trump is running for president in order for him to stay out of jail."
— Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd, July 27.
If I wanted to commit a crime, I have the perfect plan. I would wait until election season, then choose an office, local or state, for which I was eligible.
I would apply for the office and begin my campaign. I would then commit the crime. If caught, I would tell the police they couldn’t arrest me because that would be “election interference.”
Once they took me to court, I would repeat that claim. I would tell the judge I didn’t have time to be arraigned or go on trial; I’m running for office! Of course, the judge would laugh in my face and I would lose, because this whole scenario is ridiculous.
If someone commits a crime, they need to face justice. Being busy, even running for office, is not an extenuating circumstance. However, this is exactly what indicted former president Donald Trump is claiming, and too many of his supporters agree with him. In addition, Trump has been running for office, been in office, or running for re-election pretty much full-time since he came down that escalator on June 16, 2015.
He formally announced his candidacy for re-election on Nov. 15, 2022, but he informally held out the idea of running since he lost in 2020. “In the week of Nov. 9, 2020, Trump indicated to Republican Party senator Kevin Cramer: “If this doesn't work out, I'll just run again in four years.” (CNN, Dec. 8, 2021)
Trump now has four indictments filed against him, with a total of 91 charges. Each indictment is packed with carefully gathered evidence. Interestingly, most prosecution witnesses are Republicans.
Trump has questioned why prosecutors didn’t bring charges before he started his current campaign. That’s because Trump has been in campaign mode for over eight years. Also, prosecutors know that indicting a former president is complicated and they wanted to make sure they had rock-solid evidence. Rushing things wouldn’t have helped anyone.
Some of Trump’s cohorts are asking for a speedy trial but Trump is trying to delay everything. Why? Former CIA agent and U.S. Representative (2015-2021) Will Hurd, R-Texas, candidate for president, explains.
“Donald Trump is not running for president to make America great again. Donald Trump is not running for president to defend our interests overseas. Donald Trump is not even running to represent the people that voted for him in 2016 and in 2020. Donald Trump is running for president in order for him to stay out of jail.” (The Hill, July 28)
How would that work? Trump hopes that if he is convicted, then re-elected president, he will be able to pardon himself. If another Republican is elected president, Trump hopes they will pardon him. He faces some problems with that.
If Trump is convicted in the Georgia RICO conspiracy case, for his attempts to overthrow the election results, he can’t be pardoned by the president or the governor of Georgia. Under Georgia law, a convicted felon can’t even apply for a pardon until he or she has served at least five years of their sentence. That’s five years in prison for Trump, minimum.
The more serious issue is that regular juries will be deciding Trump’s fate. Trump can complain that everyone in the legal system is against him, but he won’t be facing everyone in the legal system. He will be facing 12 ordinary citizens who will be tasked with listening carefully, weighing the evidence, and reaching a verdict. If he claims they are all corrupt, he is trashing the whole American jury system.
What did our founders say about the jury system? “Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty,” John Adams said in 1774. In 1788, as the Constitution was being debated, Alexander Hamilton observed, “The friends and adversaries of the plan of the convention, if they agree in nothing else, concur at least in the value they set upon trial by jury.” Thomas Jefferson called jury trials “the only anchor ever yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” (Washington Post, Aug. 25)
Trump and his colleagues have worked hard to erode trust in our basic institutions. If he accomplishes that with our jury system, he will have succeeded in undermining the very foundation of our country. Is that really what his followers want? I certainly hope not.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.