Law can be as boring as politics is frustrating, but where law and politics collide, sparks fly. A New York lawsuit against former President Trump is going from absurd, to dangerous. Political prosecution, when the veneer comes off, is persecution. Here is why.
Former President Trump, whose home was raided in an intimidating violation of the 4th Amendment authorized by his rival who had thousands of classified pages – was just sued by a New York prosecutor.
The suit tries to elevate a misdemeanor to felony, attach it to an unnamed federal crime, and sully the leading Republican contender for 2024. On its face, this is ugly, indefensible abuse of legal process.
The obvious reason for all this, since the New York prosecutor ran on a platform of suing Trump, is that charging him with a crime may dissuade moderate voters. Or an alternate theory is that the indictment will incite Trump’s base, diminishing chances of other contenders, setting up a Biden rematch.
Either way, misuse of our legal system for politics is a disgrace and darkens respect for our justice system, not to mention for Mr. Biden, and his phalanx of state and federal prosecutors.
The idea that American politics has saturated the criminal justice system is a nightmare. But the story gets more convoluted.
Whether you are Republican or Democrat, a politicized justice system is poison in the well. The only way to clear that poison is oversight. This was so from Richard Daley’s Chicago to Richard Nixon’s Watergate.
The only way to hold a prosecutor accountable for misconduct, malicious prosecution, abuse of power, sanctionable misuse of his office, is oversight by the federal Justice Department or a legislative body, here, New York’s legislature or Congress.
Plainly, Biden’s Justice Department – which ripped a former President’s home apart, has not enforced federal laws for seemingly political reasons, allows special handling of crimes committed by the President’s son, and refuses to go deep on potential charges against the sitting president – will not act.
Similarly, New York’s legislature, owned by the left wing of the Democrat Party is not going to act.
So, who can do oversight of this prosecutor? Only the US Congress, where the same Democrat Party controls the US Senate, led by a New Yorker who hates the former President. Only the US House, controlled by Republicans, can do serious oversight of this prosecutor’s actions.
The US House – well within its constitutional powers, as confirmed by a federal district court – issued a subpoena to a local prosecutor formerly employed by Mr. Bragg, who ran on a pledge to sue Trump.
Comically and tragically, the ex-prosecutor who worked for Mr. Bragg and got subpoenaed, not only appears to have argued for suing Trump, but wrote a book on it. And thinking Mr. Bragg should act faster, he quit. Now, he resists the subpoena – as Mr. Bragg does – saying he cannot talk, might affect the suit.
So, a federal district court said, in effect, stop the nonsense, comply with the oversight subpoena, since Congress can probe prosecutorial abuses, fully has that power, and can interrupt a case if it wants.
Sidebar: As a former federal appellate clerk and counsel to the House Oversight Committee investigating in the 1990s, my two cents are the district court is on solid constitutional ground.
But, what happens next? The Bragg Team, aiming to keep secrets close, went to political battle stations, issued a scathing threat to Congress, then asked a federal appellate judge to halt the subpoena.
Incredibly, showing how political the system has become, an appellate judge herself appointed by Biden in 2021, longtime Democrat activist – without written reasoning – placed on hold the lower court’s order that Mr. Bragg and his former employee comply with Congress’ subpoena.
Then, last week, in bow to the inevitable, Mr. Bragg pretended he was pleased about the subpoena, said he appreciated the time, and knowing he would soon lose, withdrew his appeal.
Can things get any more unaccountable? We have a brazen partisan prosecuting his political nemesis, in a case scholars view as a put-up job. We have his ex-employee, who hates Mr. Trump, seeking to duck compliance with a legitimate congressional oversight subpoena.
We have a Justice Department and President, both of whom allowed their offices to intimidate a former President and abandon conservative Supreme Court Justices – dead quiet.
We have the constitutional rights of Congress, first upheld by a district judge, then shot down by an appointee of Mr. Biden, longtime Democrat activist, now on an appellate court.
Bottom line: Respect for rule of law is lost by inches, but can accelerate. Public trust in Justice and this White House is breathtakingly low and falling. This is not good for America, not for Democrats or Republicans, not for anyone. The subpoena should be complied with, suit dropped. Political prosecution is persecution. Sometimes things that seem absurd – are dangerous.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman2 for AMAC.