Does unity require amnesty?

What will America do with Mr Trump when he ceases to be President? There will be those who believe that the relatively narrow margin of Biden’s victory means that America is still a bitterly divided country and that the healing process means that any question of prosecution would be a non-starter because it would ‘re-open the wounds”. Trumpism will not go away even in the unlikely event of the man himself disappearing into the sunset sometime in January. But national divisions are nothing like as simple as the binary choices of a two-horse race or a yes/no referendum.
Going against a majority view can be difficult for politicians but if it matters so much the voters have the option of sending them packing in due course. MPs who voted for the abolition of the death penalty were not, for the most part, punished by their constituents. We didn’t have council elections in the Mets in the May following the UK referendum but in 2018 many of us in the North were happy to be elected or re-elected in wards which voted heavily Leave, myself included. Because voters are human beings their political views can be more complex (sometimes contradictory) than we might like them to be.

Part of Joe Biden’s offer was a re-assertion of the rule of law and respect for the constitution. We are all innocent until proved guilty. Nevertheless many may suspect that Mr Trump may be indictable for a a whole variety of crimes ranging from misuse of government property for party political purposes through undermining the security services to recklessly contributing to the deaths of huge numbers of American citizens.
Mr Trump could be given a free pass to maintain national unity and avoid the possibility of violence on the streets – or simply to avoid the national embarrassment that would go with prosecuting an ex-President. Or he could be prosecuted in order to make it clear that there are activities that are off-limits for Presidents or anyone else seeking public office.
Over the last few days I’ve though a lot about Al Capone. He could have been prosecuted for all sorts of crimes in the Prohibition era. But in the end it turned out that the smart thing to do was get him for not paying his taxes and then turn to the other offences. Is that a clue as to how America might deal with Mr Trump?

* Geoff Reid is a Bradford City Councillor and a retired Methodist Minister.

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21 Comments

  • It would be an nice conundrum for that well known purveyor of truth and mini Trumpism, A.B. de P. Johnson, Prime Minister of this realm, if Trump decided to settle doen to exile in his Ayrshire or Aberdeenshire Golf Courses – and an extradition request for Trump came from the U.S.A. Would the fact that one of Trump’s parents had originally been a UK citizen make any difference ?

    The intricacy of how all of this would be dealt with given the complexity of UK/Scottish Law and the state of relations between HMG/the Sturgeon government and the Biden administration would entertaining to observe. No doubt lawyers will be rubbing their hands in expectation of a good pay day. The prospect of watching Rudy Giuliani negotiating with a Procurator Fiscal would be a joy to behold.

  • John Marriott 8th Nov '20 - 10:01am

    Just seen Senator Chris Coons interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show. If he is typical of Democrat insiders, there is indeed hope that we may all make it out of the current nightmare on both sides of the pond. Talk about a ‘breath of fresh air’.

  • It feels like coming out of the darkness. Next step the new administration wanting anoither Referendum before agreeing to a Trade Deal!.
    One irony of all the Trump team and their legal jollies is that if Nevada, (already called) and Arizona both go to Biden he as the 270 without worrying about Pennsylvannia. Then we have Biden now 10,000 clear in Georgia, that may reduce it may not with the military vote, it may now be enough to avoid a recount, and on Tussday North Carolina could well go his way as well, only 77,000 behind, votes can come in till Monday with over thousands to count, remember Georgia was 102,000 ahead at the stage N. Carolina is now at.

  • Gerald Stewart 8th Nov '20 - 1:19pm

    Any attempt to prosecute Trump will only enhance and maintain the current polarisation of opinion in the U.S.A. and probably put the Democrats out of power in 2024.

  • Paul Barker 8th Nov '20 - 1:21pm

    This very much depends on the nature of any charges against Trump, where they relate to Politics there is a strong case to be made for Amnesty along Northern Irish lines.
    However, Trump is likely to face charges relating to his dodgy Business & Tax affairs & Politicians should stay out of that & let Justice take its course.
    Trump supporters are unlikely to make such a subtle distinction, they will probably cry “Witch Hunt” in either case.

  • John Marriott 8th Nov '20 - 2:48pm

    @Gerald Stewart
    “When they go low we go high”; Michelle Obama 2016

  • Trump should be prosecuted, because no person is above the law. However it should only be where the evidence is crystal clear and a conviction is not in doubt.

    A failed prosecution where he was acquitted would be very harmful.

  • Richard Wilfrid Chur 8th Nov '20 - 8:44pm

    Pardons should only come after someone has been charged and found guilty. In Trump’s case that is years way yet.

  • There are already cases which have been well publicised which do not arise out of his life before he was President.
    However I suggest that the US legal system should be allowed to deal with the situation. We have to accept that they have a different system, but if we have ideas we should focus our attention on things like how our Supreme Court is appointed, and the unhappiness of our PM about what he feels are its political decisions.

  • Trump’s character suggests that he will not be leaving things in good shape and will do everything he can to cause chaos (bearing in mind he still has many cohorts in places of power), both with Covid, the stockmarket and the govn, blaming it all on the democrats and saying what do you expect. He will probably stick it out in the USA, though, using all the money generated from the chaos to tie the courts up if people go after him, even paying off debts. Be interesting to see if he can bankrupt a whole country as he is a past master at doing it at a personal/business level.

  • Sorry meant to say that there are cases which do not arise out the the time when he was President.

  • Andrew Toye 9th Nov '20 - 9:20am

    The Nixon case shows that a pardon does not have to follow a conviction – Nixon resigned ahead of impeachment yet Ford pardoned him anyway.

  • I notice lots of people claiming it would be an assertion of the rule of law to prosecute the out going president of the US but these same people seem rather vague on exactly for what.

    It certainly has a ring of “show me the man and I will show you the crime” to it. If that is your attitude you do not believe in the rule of law.

    Anyone claiming Tax will be a basis for prosecution is totally ignorant of some of the most basic issues of US tax law.

    It is interesting that one of the claims Mr Reid makes is some crime of “undermining the security services” just think about that for a second. If Trump were to pardon Julian Assange, Chelsey Manning and Edward Snowdon for example the US security establishment would regard that as “undermining the security services” is that actually a direction of travel you would want? The powerful apparatus of states are accountable to the elected officials. Not the elected officials being accountable to the security officials. As for “recklessly contributing to the deaths of huge numbers of American citizens” so the accusation is being an incompetent politician.

    I understand that some people are consumed with hatred but what worries me is the number of people who appear to be actively interested in politics yet have no idea about what demanding those you disagree with are prosecuted for making decision you disagree with.

    If someone can identify specific crimes and set out exactly what the basis is they I’m all ears but all I see here is hatred of an opponent blinding people.

    In politics you have to actually win an argument, you need to persuade people you are right. Prosecuting your opposition or demanding that happen is not an argument. If you can’t spell out very specifically what crime occurred then you probably should not make the accusation and get on with saying why they are wrong.

    Andrew Toye is correct that in the US pardons can be issued at any point, even before someone has been apprehended. It may also be worth noting that example and others from the same period in history but 14,000km away if you want to start using incarceration as a political tool.

  • Richard Underhill 9th Nov '20 - 11:19am

    America does have dynasties, such as the Kennedys, although one of them married a Republican Austrian body-builder who became governor of California after it became ungovernable for an excess of referendums.
    Donald Trump is not really a Republican. We should remember that he asked Bill Clinton whether he could stand for President as a Democrat. The answer was YES. Having a lot of money is not a problem, JFK’s father was rich and spent on elections. Perhaps Bill Clinton was thinking about what would happen if Hillary stood for President with the help in the primaries of Democratic super-delegates.
    Donald Trump’s current undignified behaviour is causing merriment around the world, so perhaps somebody younger will want to stand in 4 years time? and perhaps hope to inherit the “base”. It should therefore not be assumed that Kamala Harris VP can win easily in 2024.

    does have ambitious progeny and might wish to

  • Richard Underhill 9th Nov '20 - 11:24am

    Sorry, true but misplaced.
    “does have ambitious progeny and might wish to”

  • Matt (Bristol) 9th Nov '20 - 12:11pm

    Trump (or the people around him) will not go quietly from the White House or from day to say politics; and he will probably seek to collect as much influence over the Republican party and its activists as possible. If Republicans move against him or fail to give him enough cover, he (or his offspring)could seek to split the party or oust them.

    Any move against him in any sphere will be portrayed as a betrayal, a conspiracy or politically motivated trumped-up charges.

    Expect some kind of ‘Not My President’ movement probablky consciously modelled on how liberals, bipartisanists and leftwingers reacted to him in 2016/17.

    Trumpite and Magaist legitimism will be around for a while and infect US politics for … years?

    Hopefully it will enable Biden to split the Republican party discipline in the Senate. But that’s not nailed-on.

  • @ George Miles ” I don’t think pardoning him in January 2021 would stop him doing this.”

    Apart from being a thoroughly unpleasant human specimen with narcissistic tendencies following reckless illiberal policies, what’s the actual criminal charge Mr. Miles ?

    FS People above makes a legitimate comment.

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