Don't Let Them Get Away With It
With the J6 plotters we can follow one of two paths: Truth and Reconciliation 2.0 or Nuremberg Trials 2.0. I favor the latter and here’s why.
January 6 Committee hearings. Department of Justice investigation. Fulton County District Attorney probe. New York attorney general’s fraud investigation. Could it be that the walls are finally closing in on Donald Trump? That the justice system, from whose grasp he’s almost always managed to slip away, will prove to be his undoing? It’s still too early to say, and many (myself included) have become jaded, with eroded faith in our judicial as well as political system.
Even so, there are hopeful signs. The J6 Committee seems to be making an impact, building a narrative that draws on the testimony of ex-Trump aides, and exposes layer after layer of corruption, lies and sedition. After appearing near comatose for months, Merrick Garland’s DOJ is picking up steam in its investigation. And the indefatigable Fani Willis, Fulton County DA, is doggedly pursuing alleged electoral interference by Trump. Furthermore, recent polls show that most Republican voters would prefer that Trump not run for office again.
In an op-ed, “Trump is losing ground in the 2024 primary. Here’s why,” The Washington Post explains that Trump’s grip on his party isn’t as strong as it used to be:
Donald Trump leads in primary polls and is well-liked by his party — but his position is worse than it was a year ago. Surveys show half of Republican voters are considering other candidates. Candidates endorsed by the former president have lost in Georgia, Idaho, Nebraska, North Carolina and South Carolina. And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is gaining ground in primary polls, emerging as a plausible challenger for the nomination.
. . .Trump’s grip on the GOP isn’t what it once was. If Republican voters find a more effective vehicle for their right-wing populism — someone who enjoys fighting the left and can win the popular vote — the former president could face a serious challenge.
But before you conclude the pendulum is beginning to swing back to sanity in our body politic, think again.
Mussolini’s doppelganger, Big Lie bullhorn and self-described “Christian nationalist” Doug Mastriano, is running as the GOP candidate for governor of Pennsylvania on a platform to rig future elections, ban all abortions, eliminate gun control — and, btw, no Jews need apply. And, yes, he was there on January 6, “but left when it turned violent.” Mastriano, a retired army colonel with five college degrees, is no dummy. Pennsylvania is a purple state with great swaths of Alabama-red citizenry; Democrat Josh Shapiro is hardly a shoo-in to be governor.
In case you hadn’t noticed, swing state Arizona is tilting full-fascist. It appears that radical right-wing election deniers are making a clean sweep in the recent Republican primaries, with GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake declaring President Joe Biden “illegitimate,” and secretary of state primary victor Mark Finchem being a QAnon believer and member of the J6-implicated Oath Keepers. Incidentally, he was also among the J6 rioters.
And on it goes — nationally, five election deniers won primaries for attorney general, and five will be vying with Democrats for secretary of state. These numbers will only increase in upcoming primaries.
But let us, for a moment, put on our rose colored glasses and affirm, Gosh-dang it! This is America! It can’t happen here. Justice will prevail. Sanity will return. It’s just a phase we’re going through. For that to occur, however, accountability must be brought to bear on those who broke our laws, who attempted to orchestrate an illegal, then violent overturn of our elective system of government. If we do not assert accountability, guilty malefactors will just skip away and a future Trump will simply rinse and repeat.
The way I see it, we can follow one of two paths: reconciliation or justice (an argument can be made that both can be pursued). Truth and Reconciliation 2.0 or Nuremberg Trials 2.0. I favor the latter and here’s why.
The bellwether for truth and reconciliation is South Africa. After the demise of apartheid, the nation’s new, representative government set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to lay bare human rights abuses that took place under white rule and during the civil conflict among all belligerents. A key aim indeed was reconciliation so that the nation could move forward with the acceptance, if not active support, of all South Africans. The purpose was restorative justice. And the focus was on human rights abuses.
What the J6 Committee, the Fulton County DA and the Department of Justice are investigating is a broad assault on our democracy, an attempted coup d’état, not human rights abuses. Restorative justice is not suitable here. What is needed, rather, is retributive justice — simply put: punishment of wrongdoers for egregious violations of the law.
Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials and future Supreme Court Justice, justified the trials accordingly, “Unless record was made. . .future generations would not believe how horrible the truth was,” adding that the trials were “one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.” The Nuremberg proceedings had two goals: punishment for those who committed crimes and deterrence of future would-be law breakers.
This is why Donald Trump and his merry band of malignant minions must be held accountable. As J6 Committee vice chair Liz Cheney told CNN, “Understanding what it means if the facts and the evidence are there, and they decide not to prosecute — how do we then call ourselves a nation of laws? I think that’s a very serious, serious balancing. The question for us is, are we a nation of laws? Are we a country where no one is above the law? And what do the facts and the evidence show?”
Close observers of the Department of Justice increasingly believe indictments are coming. The rule of law must play out to its conclusion, slow and tedious as it may be. Taking it further, pardoning a convicted, or imminently convicted, former president, as Gerald Ford did for Richard Nixon to get past America’s “long national nightmare,” would neither serve justice nor have a deterrent effect. Those who did the crime must do the time. If not, the belief among millions of Americans that there are two justice systems — one for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else will only be confirmed, thus further reinforcing mistrust in government.
Finally, also of concern are future violators of the Constitution, the Mastrianos, Lakes, Finchems who are broadcasting loudly for all to hear their intentions. We need to ponder pre-emptively how to deal with them when they discard legitimate election outcomes, throw out ballots, submit lists of fake electors. The president will need to lay down markers soon, warning them of the legal consequences as well as the potential counteractions by the federal government. That is why prosecution of the J6 gang can’t happen soon enough.
If Trump and his co-conspirators are not punished, then the rule of law is truly dead and buried.