‘Lock her up!’ — or not

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“We could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and ultimately a criminal trial. It would grind government to a halt.” 

—Presidential candidate Donald Trump, Nov. 5, 2016, Reno

During the 2016 presidential campaign between Donald Trump and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Republicans loved to claim Clinton had committed various crimes. Even though she was never indicted, they chanted “Lock her up!” repeatedly at Trump campaign rallies.

Trump himself, hoping that Clinton would be indicted at some point, said at a Nov. 3, 2016, rally in Concord, N.C., “If she were to win, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis that would cripple the operations of our government. She is likely to be under investigation for many years.” (The Hill, July 3, 2023)

Now we have this exact scenario, except it’s not Clinton who is running with criminal indictments, 34 felony convictions and on-going investigations. It’s Trump himself.

If Clinton had been indicted, tried and convicted, Trump supporters would have been jubilant. They would have proclaimed that this shows the justice system works. However, since it’s their boy who has been tried and convicted, they are crying “Foul!”

Trump supporters want to convince the rest of us that President Joe Biden and the Department of Justice somehow rigged the justice system and therefore Trump has been wrongly convicted. They want his recent criminal conviction to be overturned.

As with so many claims by Trump and his supporters, there are a few flaws in this argument. Trump’s trial in Manhattan, called the “hush money” trial, was really about fraudulent business practices, a crime that is prosecuted all the time in that jurisdiction. No new laws were created just to get Trump.

The prosecutor, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, was elected in New York County. He answers to the state of New York and the people of Manhattan. The federal government has no jurisdiction over him.

The judge, Juan Merchan, is a justice of the New York State Supreme Court. He is required to follow the laws of New York. The federal government has no jurisdiction over him.

The jury that heard the case was made up of 12 citizens of Manhattan. Trump lived in Manhattan for decades. Manhattan was his home. This was a true jury of his peers.

The jurors were picked very carefully, vetted and accepted by both the prosecution and the defense. They included a software engineer, a security engineer, a physical therapist, a salesman, an investment banker, a businessman, a product manager, a retired wealth manager, two lawyers and two educators.

None of these people were connected to Biden, his campaign, or the DOJ in any way. They were just 12 ordinary people who were chosen for jury duty and who very bravely did their civic duty.

For six weeks, the jury listened to the evidence. Trump’s defense team had every opportunity to present their case. Trump had the opportunity to testify in his own defense. He did not do so.

The jury then deliberated for 12 hours. They carefully reviewed the evidence presented. There were 34 charges and 12 jurors. This provided 408 chances for one of the jurors to say “Not guilty.” Even one “Not guilty” from one juror would have given Trump the chance to declare victory. Their decision was unanimous — guilty on all counts.

There were no federal officials in the jury room. As Allan Lichtman, professor of history at American University, said, “He was not convicted by President Biden or his political enemies but unanimously and quickly by a jury of 12 ordinary Americans.” (Reno Gazette Journal, June 3)

The phrase “Equal justice under law” is inscribed at the top of the U.S. Supreme Court building. Trump’s followers were happy to ignore that principle when they called for Hillary Clinton to be imprisoned, without indictment or trial. Now that Trump has been convicted by a jury of his peers, they again want to violate that principle.

On June 5, on MSNBC, British journalist John Sopel summed up what should be clear to all of us. “You're not electing an emperor who can rule with impunity. That idea, that there are leaders who are beyond the reach of the law, is just a kind of danger to democracy.”

Trump and his followers want to put themselves above the law. In Trump’s own words, if he wins, having a president under indictment and facing criminal trials “would grind government to a halt.” Is that the future we want for America?

Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Foundation award-winning columnist. She may be reached at news@lahontanvalleynews.com.


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