Everything indicates that the judicial fence against former President Donald Trump has begun to tighten.
(You might be interested in: Trump must be held accountable before the Justice, according to a Congressional committee)
This week, various media outlets, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, reported that the Department of Justice, as part of the investigation it is carrying out into the violent seizure of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, would have initiated an investigation to determine the role that the former president played that fateful day and in the efforts to interrupt the transition of power to Joe Biden, by winning in the presidential elections of November 2020.
(Read here: USA: Donald Trump anticipates his possible presidential candidacy in 2024)
The Department of Justice, it should be clarified, has spent months prosecuting hundreds of people who participated directly in the seizure.
In total there are more than 840 formal accusations and in several cases the judges have already issued sentences. They are also known to be looking at the role played by people close to Trump.
Among them John Eastman and Rudi Giuliani, two of the lawyers advising the former Republican president during the battle he waged to sue and ignore the results.
But it is the first time so far in these 18 months that it is confirmed that the US prosecution would target Trump himself.
As part of the investigation, it was also learned that a Grand Jury would have taken the testimony of Marc Short and Greg Jacob, two senior advisers to former Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump would have pressured to ignore the certification of the electoral results. during the session of Congress that Trumpist protesters tried to disrupt early last year.
On Wednesday, when Merrick Garland was asked if he was considering bringing criminal charges against Trump, the Attorney General was vague but telling.
“No one is above the law and we will prosecute anyone who tries to hinder the peaceful transition of power,” Garland said during an interview with NBC.
According to Preet Bharara, former attorney general for the Southern District of New York, this is a very significant development.
“It does not mean that they are going to charge him yet, but it does mean that they have sufficient evidence that compromises him and that they are studying whether his actions violated the law,” says the former prosecutor, who advanced several processes against Trump in this state for possible fraud. tax and are still in force.
Added to this is a parallel investigation being carried out by prosecutor Fanni Willis in Georgia, and which would be well advanced.
willis investigates Trump’s calls to Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger not to certify the Georgia election resultsdespite the fact that two vote counts confirmed Biden’s victory, or found him the “11,780 votes” he needed to win the state.
Likewise, the coordination between the Trump campaign and state congressmen to appoint a false group of members to the Electoral College -which is the one who elects the president- so that they would vote in favor of the former president and fraudulently give him the victory in this state.
In May, the Prosecutor requested the confirmation of a Special Grand Jury, which grants vast powers to investigate and has already identified more than 100 “persons of interest” for the process.
Recently, emails were made public in which both members of the Trump campaign and Georgia Republican officials and congressmen acknowledge that their plan to appoint alternative voters was unjustified and probably illegal, but they continued to try.
The legal developments have come simultaneously with the investigation carried out by a congressional commission since last year.
In the last two months the commission has held eight public hearings to publicize its findings, which have been devastating.
Through multiple testimonies, including White House staff who worked for Trump, and official documents, members of the committee – which includes two Republicans – have reconstructed many of the maneuvers used by the former president and his supporters to block the ascent. of Biden.
Ranging from non-existent claims of fraud, strategies to replace legitimate members of the electoral college in several states, the formation of the group of protesters that took over the Capitol and plans that tacitly included a coup.
Although the Commission does not have the power to file criminal charges – the sanction of Congress is only through an impeachment trial that has already been carried out against the former president and where he was exonerated by his Republican allies – it can recommend to the Department of Justice that it present charges against Trump.
Something that is expected to be done in the coming weeks.
Besides, he would already be transferring the mountain of evidence he has collected to the investigators. These days it also transpired that Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Trump adviser who became the star witness of the public hearings, would be cooperating with the Department of Justice and the Grand Jury.
In his testimony, Hutchinson said that Trump knew that many of the protesters were armed and intended to take over the Capitol but did nothing to prevent it.
The former president, in fact, resisted for hours the pleas of some advisers who asked him to intervene, despite reports that supporters had already entered the Capitol and were looking for Pence to assassinate him.
The Justice Department investigation against Trump that was revealed this week has two angles.
The first is “seditious conspiracy” and “conspiracy to obstruct the role of Congress.”
Precisely, the charges that the Department of Justice has raised against the protesters and that have already produced conviction.
What they seek to establish at this point is whether a direct link can be established between the former president and the actions of the protesters.
The second is a possible fraud associated with the intentions to appoint false members to the Electoral College and the pressure so that the Department of Justice of the time and other authorities declared that fraud had been committed in the elections.
As in the first, the question is not whether that happened – something that has already become clear in the congressional investigation – but Trump’s role and if he has evidence to prove it.
In any case, it is an extremely explosive issue with a high political content.
Never in the history of the United States have criminal charges been brought against a former president. even when investigations indicated that a crime had been committed.
That was what happened, for example, in the case of Bill Clinton despite the fact that he lied under oath about his sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky or that of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.
In the latter it was considered that his renunciation of power and the humiliation that it brought had been sufficient sanction.
In large part, both prosecutors and subsequent administrations chose to grant immunity or not file charges to avoid the perception that government power was being used to punish political rivals and ensure a peaceful transition of command.
The subject is even more delicate. Prosecutor Garland was appointed by Biden, Trump’s political rival in the last elections. Something that will undoubtedly be exploited by the former president as a vendetta by the Democrats.
In addition, the former president is still very popular among Republicans and is about to announce a candidacy for the 2024 elections, where he would probably face Biden himself.
Given the acute polarization that already exists in the US, the opening of charges against Trump would be like pouring gasoline on the fire that is already consuming this country.
But doing nothing would be just as dangerous. Or even worse.
As James Raskin, one of the members of the Commission (and a member of the Democratic Party), said, what Nixon did was like a meeting of the “stick cutters” (Boy Scouts) when compared to the actions of this former president.
“Trump succeeded in disrupting the counting of the Electoral College vote for the first time in history and almost destroyed the constitutional order. The question is what we do now to prevent January 6 from repeating itself. To shield ourselves against coups d’état, political violence and campaigns to steal the elections”, affirmed the legislator.
According to political analyst Jenniffer Rubin, the bottom line of this response is structural changes in the electoral system that guarantee the independence of the officials who administer them and prevent the manipulation of the vote for partisan purposes.
But, at the same time, that those responsible pay a cost. The amount of that invoice, which can be from zero to one hundred, is what is yet to be defined.
SERGIO GOMEZ MASERI
Correspondent of THE TIME
On Twitter: @ sergom68
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