Trump thinks running for president will save him from prosecution -- but it will likely backfire: legal expert
Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Former President Donald Trump seems to believe that running for president again might allow him to wriggle out of possible criminal charges, but one national security expert argued that only makes him more likely to be indicted.

The twice-impeached former president appears likely to announce a third White House campaign, and he reportedly thinks that might help him escape criminal charges for the Jan. 6 insurrection and other efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, but conservative Paul Rosenzweig argued in a column for The Bulwark that running for office puts more pressure on the Department of Justice to prosecute him.

"In many ways Trump is an idiot savant," wrote Rosenzweig, a former deputy assistant secretary for policy in the Department of Homeland Security. "Despite his manifest flaws he has shown an uncommonly effective ability to define a political movement and capture its energy to his own political benefit. His continuing control of Republican primaries is evidence of his ongoing influence over American politics."

"But even idiot savants make mistakes," he added.

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Richard Nixon was pardoned by his successor Gerald Ford on the assumption he would leave politics for good, and Bill Clinton also evaded prosecution by agreeing to step back from public life, but Trump instead has remained the unquestioned leader of the Republican Party and its frontrunner for the 2024 nomination.

"If Trump had chosen to retire to Mar-a-Lago and play golf or even if he had retreated to his resort and continued to exercise influence over the Republican party but chosen not to run again for office," Rosenzweig wrote, "I suspect that Attorney General Merrick Garland would have welcomed the excuse to forgo a prosecution of Trump."

"Garland would likely have judged the precedent be too significant and the risks to civil society to extreme," he added.

Trump mistakenly thinks becoming a presidential candidate will immunize him from prosecution, but Rosenzweig believes the opposite is true.

"By refusing to forswear ambition, he exacerbates the conditions of social conflict that make it almost mandatory for the attorney general to exercise his discretion in favor of charging Trump," Rosenzweig wrote. "Without the benefit of civil peace, the rule of law must prevail."

"Trump doesn’t have it in him to fade from public view," Rosenzweig added, "and, in the end, that compulsion may make it impossible to excuse his misconduct."