When President Barack Obama came into office, he wanted to "move on" from the previous administration's scandals and ultimately ignored President George W. Bush's administration's use of torture on prisoners of war taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan battles.
President-elect Joe Biden has privately told campaign allies that he doesn't want to spend his entire administration dealing with the crimes of President Donald Trump. But with things reaching such an egregious level of lawlessness, he may have no choice.
Former senior prosecutor for special counsel Robert Mueller, Andrew Weissmann, explained to MSNBC's Ali Velshi that Trump's situation is very different from any other president in history.
"We're going to be, as of January 20th, 2021, in the situation where we no longer are talking about indicting the president but, rather, a former president, somebody who is a civilian," Weissmann explained. "And the question's going to be: Does the rule of law apply to that person? And it's very hard to see an argument if it is shown, for instance, that in the Manhattan District Attorney's office that the president has committed tens of millions of dollars of tax fraud or bank fraud or both. Any other person would normally be prosecuted, then it really shouldn't be the case that just because he becomes president, that he shouldn't have the day in court where a jury decides whether or not he committed those crimes prior to becoming president."
As for his conduct during the Mueller investigation, Weissmann explained that not prosecuting Trump for the ten examples of obstruction of justice would essentially make all special counsel investigations in the future pointless.
"You have to remember in the Mueller report, there is substantial evidence that the president obstructed justice, in other words, obstructed the special counsel investigation," he continued. "And to me, that's even more important to vindicate. If you are not going to hold a president accountable for a special counsel investigation obstruction, then there's no reason to actually have a special counsel in the future. In other words, the precedent that you're setting in the future is don't bother appointing a special counsel because there isn't going to be any accountability to a president who obstructs that investigation."
A New York Times column suggested that putting Trump on trial for obstruction of justice will be perceived as Biden putting 72 million Americans who voted for Trump on trial.
"You know, I think that's looking at it the wrong way," Weissmann explained. "Remember, a jury is going to have to make the decision and is going to have to find proof beyond a reasonable doubt in the same way any other defendant is entitled to all of the due process rights that we have in this country. And Donald Trump, if he were to be indicted, whether federally or by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, would enjoy all of those same rights in the same way, for instance, that Paul Manafort went to trial and a jury made up of citizens from a cross-section of the community made a decision regardless of politics, whether someone's a Democrat or a Republican, just on the facts and the law. And Donald Trump would face the same kind of jury making that determination."
Trump, like every other American, deserves his day in court and deserves an opportunity to be vindicated by a jury of his peers. Biden could appoint a special counsel, he could delegate any Trump charges to district prosecutors, and have nothing to do with any of Trump's impending legal troubles. Trump will be facing a number of suits when he leaves office on the state level and civil level, even without any Biden Justice Department indictments. If it happens early enough in his presidency, Biden has an option to get it out of the way, and all of the suits can meld into each other in the public's mind. Given that Biden was elected by many Americans voting against Trump, he could be hurting any reelection chances by ignoring the president's lawlessness.
See the video of Weissmann below: