Last week I received emails from two of my friends who both underscored the need for Donald Trump to face legal proceedings regarding a wide array of criminal behavior. Neither of them linked their notes to me in the context that I have been a decades-long believer that President Ford was correct when granting a pardon to Richard Nixon. It goes without saying that when it comes to crimes committed Nixon was a piker in comparison to Trump. That is the prime difference that needs to be understood as the nation weighs this issue.
I firmly believe Trump absolutely must face legal consequences for his actions as columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr listed them in his most recent column. The crimes range from “extortion, treason, tax fraud, bank fraud, obstruction of justice, campaign-finance violations, and sexual assault.”
My readers know my strongly held views about the correctness of Ford’s pardon in 1974. There have been many points of view registered about the action over the decades but I still view it to be one of the most sincere and brave decisions that any president has made in my lifetime. I grew up in the final months of Watergate and was fascinated by the events taking place in Washington.
Watergate not only destroyed the Nixon presidency but also cut a wide swath through the American mindset of what our government was all about. After Nixon resigned there was a battle cry from many that he should be tried for his criminal behavior. I have long thought that while on principle that idea made sense the reality of the situation demanded that the national bloodletting be stopped. It was a political suicide, but yet Ford was determined to put the country before every other consideration. Ford understood there was a difference between what the nation wanted, and what it needed. It was because Ford showed real leadership that our national nightmare did end.
But is would be just the opposite should any presidential pardon be granted to Trump based on the enormity of his crimes. Nixon, after all, had enough honor to put the nation over his own selfish desires when push came to shove. While Nixon had dark demons that were allowed to roam with domestic partisan outcomes there was never a fear that he would put our nation at risk.
With Trump, there has been a continuous thread of criminal behavior that has undermined our Constitution and imperiled our standing in the world. Trump obstructed justice, attempted to bribe the leader of Ukraine, illegally separated children from their parents at the border…and that is just the warm-up to his full rap-sheet.
Upon leaving office Trump will find himself in legal fights and civil suits about his businesses, taxes, and sexual attacks. If his legal fights do not drain his resources the back taxes and financial shams he has erected will bring him to his knees. Trump’s crimes are of the gravity and enormity that there must be a legal reckoning. His were far more dangerous to democracy than Nixon pulling in campaign funds to pay for burglars at the Watergate or using the CIA to lull the FBI off of an investigation. That is not to say Nixon was not a criminal, too.
During the past weeks as Trump has tried every ploy he could concoct to undermine the election returns, it was noted by a pundit on television that the Oval Office was the only thing keeping Trump out of jail or the Charles Dickens version of the poorhouse. That image alone deserves the work of an editorial cartoonist. Meanwhile, historians will work over the fact of an impeached one-term president needing a pardon.
They, too, will argue the need for justice to win out over a pardon. It is our duty as citizens to make sure we act in accordance with what democracy demands.
And so it goes.