Eighty-three years ago this week, FDR’s Attorney General Robert H. Jackson gave a powerful speech to the nation’s prosecutors – warning them never to succumb to politically motivated charges. Today, a transparent partisan pushes an indefensible indictment of a former president – turning America’s devotion to due process and fair administration of laws into a farce, making a mockery of our justice system, and spawning a national tragedy.
On March 31, President Trump was made the object of a multi-count indictment coordinated by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, an elected progressive who ran on the promise of finding charges against Trump, someone he disdains and a serious rival to Democrats in 2024.
Whatever one thinks of Trump, Bragg’s misuse of prosecutorial power, textbook prosecutorial abuse, is what the law calls malicious prosecution. It is certain to end badly for him, after 15 minutes of infamy. FDR’s Attorney General and Democrat appointee to the Supreme Court, Robert Jackson, knew it, modern prosecutors and scholars know it, and average Americans can feel it.
That is why the Biden Justice Department sidestepped cobbling charges together, following abuse of the 4th Amendment, a general warrant to harass the former president or exceeding a specific warrant. Ironically, after an obnoxious, unconstitutional invasion of Trump’s home with 30 armed FBI agents for nine hours, rummaging in his wife’s garments, getting nothing of consequence – Biden had dozens of boxes, hundreds of classified documents, hidden in five locations accessible to a son on China’s payroll.
The indictment filed against Trump is equally spurious – and reeks of political motivation. The charges are so contrived as to be laughable, an attempt to stretch personal misbehavior and putative misdemeanors into felonies, pretend local jurisdiction allows assertion of federal campaign violations (which Main Justice did not recognize), and then cover-up the absence of credible charges with dozens of baseless claims.
Not only is this prosecutor a partisan who won office pledging to file against Trump, but hours after the indictment, he threatened House Republicans with charges – telling them to cease their “unlawful political interference” as he pushes to jail Trump.
This is more backward than political threats in third-world dictatorships or bought-off narco-states. It is a crass, over-the-top attempt to intimidate political opponents – stunningly getting head nods from Biden, Harris, the AG, FBI, and other top Democrats. Today, Democrat ends justify any means.
This is NOT how America works. A prosecutor – at any level – is not allowed to misuse his office, then compound his misconduct with threats of legal vengeance against those who object, let alone those who have oversight jurisdiction and oppose his prosecutorial misconduct.
As FDR’s Attorney General made clear, this disgraces our commitment to rule of law, infusing political vengeance and score-settling into fair administration of justice, violating statutes and the Constitution.
Future Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, in his epic speech, wrote: “It would probably be within the range of that exaggeration permitted in Washington to say that assembled in this room is one of the most powerful peace-time forces known to our country.” By this, he meant prosecutors.
“The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous. He can have citizens investigated and, if he is that kind of person, he can have this done to the tune of public statements and veiled or unveiled intimations. Or the prosecutor may choose a more subtle course and simply have a citizen’s friends interviewed. The prosecutor can order arrests, present cases to the grand jury in secret session, and on the basis of his one-sided presentation of the facts, can cause the citizen to be indicted and held for trial.”
True enough. As Tom Wolfe wrote in “Bonfire of the Vanities,” a prosecutor can get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich.” Jackson – a diehard Democrat – saw mixing politics and prosecution as the third rail. “While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society – when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst.”
Modern Democrats might listen. Said Jackson, the prosecutor has “immense power to strike at citizens…with all the force of government itself,” thus political or personal motivations represent “a perverted sense of…values” and “defects of character.”
This is why prosecutors are “prohibited from engaging in political activities,” should avoid “intrigue…and the machinery of a particular party or faction.” Any prosecutor “stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation…by anyone,” so if he targets “some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass…then looks for an offense, that (is) the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power…”
If “law enforcement becomes personal…the real crime becomes…being personally obnoxious…in the way of the prosecutor himself. In times of fear or hysteria, political, racial, religious, social, and economic groups…cry for the scalps of individuals or groups” is the danger. That is when prosecutors must be “dispassionate and courageous,” stay far removed from politics.
The exact opposite is what we see now. Biden’s Justice Department – and this New York hack – aim to run the table, prosecute, intimidate, chill, invalidate, and imprison their opponents. That is something we have NEVER permitted in America, must not now. It mocks justice, amounts to a national tragedy.
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 Spokesman for AMAC.