Republican Voices of Experience Speak Loudly

It’s one thing for someone like me, a mere political observer, to say that Donald Trump must be prosecuted for his crimes, particularly the crime of inciting an attempted coup to overturn an election, to kill the voices of We the People.  You and I can say it all we want, but our words carry little or no weight with the courts or the Department of Justice, the people who really matter.  However, when former Justice Department officials who served in Republican administrations say it, then it carries weight and significance.

The following article, published in The Atlantic, was penned by the trio of Donald Ayer, Stuart M. Gerson, and Dennis Aftergut.  Ayer and Gerson worked in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Gerson also briefly served as the acting attorney general under President Bill Clinton, while Aftergut is a former federal prosecutor and former chief assistant city attorney for San Francisco.  Their words are powerful and I hope that those who need to listen … are listening.


The DOJ Must Prosecute Trump

The January 6 committee has provided overwhelming evidence that the former president was not some bit player along for the ride, but the central driver of a nefarious plot.

By Donald Ayer, Stuart Gerson, and Dennis Aftergut

After seven hearings held by the January 6 committee thus far this summer, doubts as to who is responsible have been resolved. The evidence is now overwhelming that Donald Trump was the driving force behind a massive criminal conspiracy to interfere with the official January 6 congressional proceeding and to defraud the United States of a fair election outcome.

The evidence is clearer and more robust than we as former federal prosecutors—two of us as Department of Justice officials in Republican administrations—thought possible before the hearings began. Trump was not just a willing beneficiary of a complex plot in which others played most of the primary roles. While in office, he himself was the principal actor in nearly all of its phases, personally executing key parts of most of its elements and aware of or involved in its worst features, including the use of violence on Capitol Hill. Most remarkably, he did so over vehement objections raised at every turn, even by his sycophantic and loyal handpicked team. This was Trump’s project all along.

Everyone knew before the hearings began that we were dealing with perhaps the gravest imaginable offense against the nation short of secession—a serious nationwide effort pursued at multiple levels to overturn the unambiguous outcome of a national election. We all knew as well that efforts were and are unfolding nationwide to change laws and undermine electoral processes with the specific objective of succeeding at the same project in 2024 and after. But each hearing has sharpened our understanding that Donald Trump himself is the one who made it happen.

As former prosecutors, we recognize the legitimacy of concerns that electoral winners prosecuting their defeated opponents may look like something out of a banana republic rather than the United States of America; that doing so might be viewed as opening the door to prosecutorial retaliation by future presidential winners; and that, in the case of this former president, it might lead to civil unrest.

But given the record now before us, all of these considerations must give way to the urgency of achieving a public reckoning for Donald Trump. The damage to America’s future that would be inflicted by giving him a pass far outweighs the risks of prosecuting him.

The committee’s evidence to date establishes multiple significant points for prosecutors. (A comprehensive summary of the evidence—offense by offense—is available at Just Security’s “Criminal Evidence Tracker.”)

First, contrary to speculation that Trump may have genuinely believed he won the election, and thus in his own mind was seeking rough justice in trying to change the outcome, the committee has demonstrated repeatedly that he knew beyond all doubt that he had lost fair and square. Trump’s former attorney general Bill Barr told the president that claims of widespread voter fraud were “bullshit.” Numerous reinforcements of that message were delivered by many others, including Barr’s successor, former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen; former Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue; and multiple Trump-campaign officials.

Second, Trump’s involvement in carrying out the scheme was systematic, expansive, and extraordinarily personal. As if to illustrate how personal his intervention was (and is), Republican Liz Cheney, the committee’s vice chair and the representative from Wyoming, dropped a bombshell at the end of Tuesday’s hearing: Sometime since the previous hearing on June 28, Trump himself had contacted a witness, something that his lawyers certainly could have told him could easily lead to charges of witness tampering. Cheney announced that the committee has notified the Justice Department of Trump’s latest misconduct.

The committee’s previous hearings showed that in the months after the 2020 election, Trump himself—not some aide or lawyer or other ally—tried to interfere with the state vote-counting processes. Among the most memorable incidents was his 67-minute January 2 call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger asking him to “find” 11,780 nonexistent votes, creating a Trump win. Trump himself also called to try to influence the state’s chief elections investigator, Frances Watson, and spoke with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to urge him to call a special legislative session to appoint alternative electors.

There is also evidence that Trump spoke with Republican Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler after he had declined repeated calls from Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, two Trump-campaign attorneys, to bring the legislature into session to decertify the state’s election results. And Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel and Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, also a Republican, both testified that Trump phoned them in December to ask for their help in implementing the infamous bogus-elector scheme. (John Eastman, another Trump lawyer, and Giuliani were also involved with those calls.)

Trump tried persistently to obtain the help of the Department of Justice in creating a false public impression that the election had been fraudulent. After he failed in mid-December to persuade Bill Barr to assert election fraud, Trump called Rosen, Barr’s successor, nearly every day in the same pursuit. And when this effort too failed, at a White House meeting on January 3, he undertook to replace Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, a second-tier DOJ official whom Trump had spoken with personally and found more compliant. This effort failed only when Donoghue and Rosen told Trump that the entire department’s leadership would resign if Clark were installed.

Crucial to the whole plot, of course, was the unlawful scheme to pressure Vice President Mike Pence into rejecting or delaying the electoral count. Multiple witnesses testified about being present to hear Trump’s “heated” call with Pence on the morning of January 6. One witness said that Trump called Pence a “wimp.” Ivanka Trump testified that she had never previously heard her father treat Pence that way, and she told another witness that Trump had used the “P-word” to denigrate the vice president’s manhood.

Ample evidence has also shown Trump well knew that Pence could not properly do as Trump urged. Mike Pence’s counsel, Greg Jacob, testified that Trump was present at a January 4 White House meeting where John Eastman admitted the unlawfulness of his and Trump’s plan to have the vice president not certify the electoral count two days later.

A third significant point for prosecutors is that the hearings have put into sharp focus Trump’s personal involvement and advance knowledge of the dangerous circumstances surrounding the January 6 insurrection. Cassidy Hutchinson, who was the principal aide to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified that she overheard Trump complain just before his January 6 speech on the Ellipse that supporters were not being allowed into the security area for his speech while armed, and thus were staying outside. She recalled Trump asking to have the magnetometers removed, saying that he did not care if attendees were armed, because “they’re not here to hurt me.”

Hutchinson also testified that Trump expected to go to the Capitol after his speech and was angry when the Secret Service denied his request to do so, testimony that others have corroborated. He wanted to be part of and lead an armed mob aimed, at minimum, at intimidating Congress and Mike Pence. That is significant evidence demonstrating criminal intent in connection with the crime of inciting an insurrection. Told that the mob had threatened to hang the vice president, Trump apparently responded that he “deserves” it.

Finally, the committee has persuasively established that Trump continued to facilitate the insurrection, even after he returned to the White House once the Secret Service refused to take him to Capitol Hill. Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley testified that during the violence, Pence called him to request the National Guard to restore order; Trump made no such call. In fact, Trump did nothing for more than three hours to quell the insurrectionists.

To the contrary, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Matthews testified that by tweeting that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done” to overturn the election, Trump was “pouring gasoline on the fire.”

All of that was enough to show Trump’s personal leadership of the Big Lie effort and his complicity in the violence of January 6. But in addition, at Tuesday’s hearing, the committee focused attention on Trump’s December 19 tweet inviting his supporters to a “big protest in D.C. on January 6th.” He added, “Be there, will be wild!” The committee showed evidence of communications among the militant Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and Three Percenters hours after the tweet demonstrating that it was the signal that prompted previously unaligned groups to cooperate in developing military-style operational tactics for the violent Capitol invasion.

In assessing the importance and priority to be given to a DOJ decision to prosecute, the Justice Department Manual lists three factors with special relevance here: “the nature and seriousness of the offense,” “the deterrent effect of the prosecution,” and “the person’s culpability in connection with the offense.”

On the first point, it is hard to imagine an offense that would more urgently call for criminal accountability by federal prosecution than a concerted and nearly successful effort to overthrow the result of a presidential election. It is an offense against the entire nation, by which Trump sought to reverse a 235-year-old constitutional tradition of presidential power transferring lawfully and peacefully.

The fact that a related state grand-jury investigation is proceeding in Fulton County, Georgia, relating to the part of the plot aimed at the Georgia vote count and certification process does not alter or lessen the urgency of this federal interest. Separate state and federal prosecutions can and should proceed when federal interests are as strong or stronger than the local interest.

Nor can there be any doubt about the crucial need to deter future attempts to overthrow the government. For the past 18 months, and presently, Trump himself and his supporters have been engaged in concerted efforts across the country to prepare for a similar, but better-planned, effort to overcome the minority status of Trump’s support and put him back in the White House. Moreover, if the efforts of the former president and his supporters garner a pass from the federal authorities, even in the face of such overwhelming evidence, Trump will not be the only one ready to play this game for another round.

As many have pointed out, deterrence requires that the quest for accountability succeed in achieving a conviction before a jury—here most likely made up of citizens of the District of Columbia. And the Department’s regulations make the odds of the prosecution’s success an important consideration in determining whether to go forward. In the case of a person who has made a career out of escaping the consequences of his misconduct, this is no small issue for the attorney general to take into account.

But as former prosecutors, we have faith that the evidence of personal culpability is so overwhelming that the case can be made to the satisfaction of such a jury. One of us—Gerson—has tried many difficult cases before D.C. juries with success. As a defendant, Donald Trump would open the door to all sorts of things that wouldn’t come into a normal trial, and the prosecutor could have a field day in argument about how this would-be tyrant tried to overthrow the government that has kept our nation free for two and a quarter centuries. Bottom line: Given what is at stake, even with the risk of a hung jury—leaving room for a second trial—there is no realistic alternative but to go forward.

Any argument that Donald Trump lacked provable criminal intent is contradicted by the facts elicited by the January 6 committee. And the tradition of not prosecuting a former president must yield to the manifest need to protect our constitutional form of government and to ensure that the violent effort to overthrow it is never repeated.

28 thoughts on “Republican Voices of Experience Speak Loudly

  1. So far it looks like all the “Evidence” presented by the January 6th committee seems to be circumstantial and hearsay and any action by the DOJ is dependent on what appears to be a timid delay of action for some reason by Garland and Company …and this whole thing is in danger of paswsing into history with no effect and the alleged perpretators going totally free to do it all again in 2024. The perps have already gotten their shadow government into place ready to hit the road running if they can successfully manipulate themselves into power in 2024. People should be concerned but they do not seem to be concerned that their democracy is at stake.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would argue that testimony under oath by those who were literally ‘in the room’ at the time, qualifies as evidence. I, too, am concerned by AG Garland’s silence, but I like to think he’s lining up his ducks, making sure all the ‘i’s are dotted and the ‘t’s crossed before he makes a move. I LIKE to think that … whether I’m right or not remains to be seen, of course. The bottom line, and Garland is smart enough to know this, is that if Trump is not charged, not prosecuted, then we are at great risk of a takeover by hostile Republicans, a successful coup, within the next few years. You’re right … far too man people seem to be wearing their rose-coloured glasses, thinking that this doesn’t affect them, personally, so why should they get involved. I’ve heard that far too many times and it’s an attitude that may well lead to the downfall of this nation. What, I wonder, does it take to wake them up?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Republican Voices of Experience Speak Loudly — Filosofa’s Word | just drive, will you?

  3. Pingback: REPUBLICAN VOICES OF EXPERIENCE SPEAK LOUDLY. |jilldennison.com | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  4. I do not know what to call Ametica’s present system of government, but it is not democracy, or is it even republicism. In order for there to be democracy all sides must work together to produce sane legislation for the betterment of all people, no matter who they are or what they, as individuals or groups, believe. The whole idea of democracy is that there is an over-arching structure to life that can and will be discovered by constantly searching and seeking to improve life for everyone.
    That search, though never truly allowed to be properly undertaken, died in the 1980s. Instead of being a search to improve the lives of all people it became a plan to improve the lives of only a certain small but powerful group of people (mainly the wealthy owners of industries and production) and gave little acknowledgement to the rest of the citizenry who they believed needed no progess at all. LITTLE PEOPLE CEASED TO MATTER!
    But for some 30 years, give ot take, the plans of the wealthy to direct democracy in their favour moved ahead too slowly for them. They did not have the numbers to continually win all the elections They realized they needed a ready-made group of voters to give them more mandates. At first they approached the NRA, taking their side in weakening gun regulations, to the point of making it impossible to force responsibility on gun manufacturers for their products being used exactly as intended, to kill people. But that wasn’t enough. They still needed more voters.
    Looking around, they found an even larger group than provided by gun-owning NRA members — they found Christians. Not all Christians, but two particular denominations, Evangelicals, and Catholics who were against abortion. They basically sold their “souls to the devils” by promising to help give these groups a say in government which had been denied them by the very Constitution that separated Church and State in return for their votes.
    The last 6 or so years, and in particular the last few months — looking at the latest Supreme Court rulings — are revealing the demonic efficacy of their enhanced plan. The Republican Party no longer cares about the non-wealthy. All they care about is power. And even though they do not have majorities in either House or even in the President’s Office, the still HAVE THE POWER to control what government does, OR DOES NOT ACCOMPLISH.
    They have literally shut down democracy in favour of POWER.
    And this is why a short while ago I coined to new word to describe America’s new form of government. It started as a joke, I guess, truth to be told, but now I am realizing the depths of my meaning. AMERICA HAS BECOME A DEMONOCRACY. It is allowing demons of the past — Wild West religious authoritarianism — to rule the civilized and forward looking members of American society in order for Republicans to mainain the power they have usurped over the past four decades.
    Mid-Term Election 2022 is a new type of battleground, one which is not democratic, but which is pushing for Demonocracy. If voters are willing to live under such a government, they need do nothing. But if this is not how they want to live, this may be their last chance to save their democracy, and get back to building a better nation for all, not just for the wealthy!
    DEMOCRACY IS FOR THE MANY, E PLURIBUS UNUM!

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  5. If only the Republican voices in Congress agreed (they wouldn’t even vote to convict during both impeachment proceedings). It’s just no longer the same party it was when such conservatives as Goldwater, Reagan and the Bush’s were around. The idea that the party listens to Jim Jordan, MTG, Lauren Boebert or Paul Gossar doesn’t give me much hope for sanity any time soon.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Jill, I have long held the view we must hold the former president accountable and charge him with crimes. His role in the Big Lie of bogus election fraud claims is well known and we are learning how intricately involved he was with insurrection on the Capitol. If he is not charged, what prevents the next demagogue from doing the same or worse? Niece Mary Trump said her uncle will burn it all down to avoid losing the election. Yes, he will and he is still holding a lighter and a gasoline can. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • That is, I think, the only way we can ensure that he never again holds the power he once held, never again sits in the Oval Office, for if he does … then all bets about democracy are off. I watched a recent clip of an interview with Mary Trump last night and it was chilling. The moderator asked what we could expect if he is prosecuted and she said we can expect him to turn against everybody. The moderator then asked what precedent there was in Trump’s history, and she said that since he had never been held accountable, had always gotten out of every situation, there was no precedent of him losing a fight or being held responsible for his actions. That is frightening.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, he has lost a few court fights, which left him unhappy. Of course, I always find it amusing when he is “mad” about yet one more thing. He is often mad. My favorite story is when a woman in New Jersey refused to sell him her land next to one of his casinos. He used every trick in the book and even visited her, but she still said no. Ironically, her land ownership outlasted her neighbor who had to file bankruptcy on his casino.

        Another favorite story is his fighting offshore windmills that were visible from his golf course in Scotland (it may have been Ireland). The government won the case and the golf course owner had to pay court costs. This may be the primary reason he does not like windmills. They represent a lost case.

        Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • All good points, my friend. I will never forget the story I read early on … before the 2016 election … about when he was in boarding school. He and some other boys were playing a game … Trump lost and tried to throw one of the other boys out of a 2nd floor window! He never grew up, never matured, never learned to treat others with respect. And yet a lot of people want him back in the Oval Office???

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          • Jill, the stories are many. When he settled a court case for housing discrimination toward African-Americans, he promised restitution in writing. The plaintiffs never got their money, so had to take him back to court for the judge re-order him to pay-up. Remember, the Meghan Kelly debate? He promised to donate money from a rally he did the night of his missed debate. He had to be reminded months later he had not donated said money. These are two of many examples that define the person’s actions. Keith

            Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s like this, in a lot of the places in the world right now, with the political parties ruling a country, with their hands, dipped into the justice departments, to, ensure that none of their, incumbents, party memebers, get prosecuted, for abusing the systems, and there, is, nothing we can do about it, because the “majority” of the voters, put these people into office.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Wibble and commented:
    This may possibly be the most important post I’ve ever read. If we continue to allow ‘one rule for us and another for them’, the whole world is in dire straits… and we should all be in straitjackets.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so so much for sharing this one! You’re right … this may be the most important thing we all need to read and understand. I think few realize just how close we came to being taken over by a megalomaniacal authoritarian back in early 2021. We need to do everything possible to ensure it cannot happen again, for next time it might just succeeed. Chilling thought. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: Republican Voices of Experience Speak Loudly | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

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