Over at the Nation, Jeet Heer argues the pros and cons of prosecuting Trump. While he comes down on the side of prosecuting Trump, my inclination is to let the state criminal proceedings continue: I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised how they go once he’s no longer president. It might be like getting Al Capone on taxes, but we should take it, because Heer and others who argue about Trump are missing the point.
For justice to have a deterrent effect, it must target his enablers. That is, many of the people who supported Trump supported him through illegal actions, and they must be punished for doing so. Biden should reinstate and invigorate the inspectors general at, well, all of the agencies, and restart (or flat out begin) investigations into various Trump officials who violated federal law. I don’t really care if someone took a couple of notepads home–that’s not what I mean. But everything from the egregious Hatch Act violations, to kids in cages (we need lots of ICE prosecutions), to outright corruption should be investigated.
This isn’t about vengeance, though there’s nothing wrong with feeling some schadenfreude when it comes to these assholes, but ensuring that well-off powerful people who gain governing power don’t misuse it. Admittedly, we don’t know what Trump will do regarding pardons (though pardoning people really isn’t in his own best interest, as they then can no longer refuse to testify on the grounds of self-incrimination), but it’s prosecuting his enablers that will prevent the next Trump: most of his enablers have a lot to lose, and won’t be willing to lose for another Trump–or a Tom Cotton.