Investing 06-06-2024 14:33 14 Views

The GOP promises legal revenge for Trump. Easier said than done.

In a 2024 campaign long marked by Donald Trump’s threats of revenge and retribution, the period after he was convicted was bound to get ugly quickly. Sure enough, scores of Trump allies are now threatening to prosecute Democrats and throw them in jail.

As always in politics, it’s worth being skeptical. Is this a true threat, or posturing?

Republicans might well mean what they say. It’s just that it suits Trump’s purposes just as well to make Democrats — and a specific judge who will soon decide Trump’s sentence in the hush-money-election-interference case — fear reaping the whirlwind, whether or not it comes to pass.

At this point, Republicans are more given to sound and fury than specifics. We’ve also seen Republicans scratch and claw in their elusive efforts to target political opponents based on thin conspiracy theories, which don’t stick. For now, that appears to be what they’re working with.

Few of these Trump allies pledging revenge have enunciated specific alleged offenses they’ll pursue. And when they have, they’ve reinforced how fanciful these efforts could be.

A popular idea is to investigate the investigators — basically to turn up the heat on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D), Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) and others who have indicted Trump and his allies. Among those pushing this is Mike Davis, a former Senate Judiciary Committee lawyer close to Trump, who wants state and local Republican prosecutors to lead the probes, he told the New York Times.

But the limits of this approach are evident. Trump Attorney General William P. Barr dispatched special counsel John Durham to launch a probe of the Russia investigation; it turned out to be a years-long bust.

Davis suggested Wednesday that such probes could focus on the theory that the Biden administration has been pulling the strings in these state prosecutions. He pointed to Matthew Colangelo, a former Biden Justice Department official who worked on the Manhattan case, and two meetings that former Fulton County prosecutor Nathan Wade appears to have had with the Biden White House in 2022.

The idea that the Justice Department was involved in the Manhattan case is not only highly circumstantial, it has now been firmly denied by both former Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina and, under oath on Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The Wade meetings with the White House haven’t been fully explained, but the investigation at that point was seeking potential witnesses from the Trump White House, and the Biden White House could have helped with those contacts and navigating executive privilege issues.

Separately, longtime Trump ally and adviser Stephen K. Bannon told Axios that Bragg could be convicted of violating the right to equal protection and the ban on unreasonable search and seizure enshrined in the Constitution. Bannon also cited “scores of other” laws Bragg could be investigated under.

That all sounds serious. But it’s not clear how it would work. And it’s difficult to argue that Trump was singled out or that the evidence-gathering against him was unreasonable, given he was convicted of 34 felony counts by a unanimous jury of his peers.

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey (R) on Tuesday floated yet another idea: that President Biden could be prosecuted for trying to “buy votes” with his student loan forgiveness executive orders.

“What role is he playing in election interference if he’s trying to buy votes?” Bailey said. “And is there a red-state prosecutor out there that could potentially charge him with a criminal offense?”

It would be extremely difficult to land such a conviction and have it stand. Politicians do things they hope are popular and sometimes carry financial benefits for voters. That includes Trump’s own executive orders. If this is the plan, they’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

University of California at Berkeley law professor John Yoo, author of the controversial “torture memos” for the George W. Bush administration, argued in a National Review op-ed last week for two other measures.

“A Republican DA will have to charge Hunter Biden for fraud or corruption for taking money from foreign governments,” Yoo said. “Another Republican DA will have to investigate Joe Biden for influence-peddling at the behest of a son who received payoffs from abroad.”

It is not illegal for a president’s or a vice president’s son to take foreign money, as unseemly as that might be. And again, such a standard could very well ensnare Trump.

As for that and investigating President Biden for “influence-peddling” related to his son’s overseas work? Republicans have been barking up that tree for years; it’s been a central premise of their impeachment push, but it goes back even further, to early in the 2020 campaign. That push hasn’t been able to win a sufficient amount of support even from Republican lawmakers. Americans haven’t bought into it, either. And Republican lawmakers have struggled mightily to even enunciate what the supposed offenses there were.

(House Republicans on Wednesday issued criminal referrals to the Justice Department for Hunter and James Biden, President Biden’s brother, for allegedly false testimony.)

That impeachment example is telling.

After Trump was impeached twice, Republicans promised that payback was in store. The standard for impeachment was lowered, they argued, so watch out.

The intervening 3½ years have shown that’s much easier to threaten than to make happen. And the standards for conviction in a court of law are significantly tougher than they are for an impeachment.

Republicans might believe that a red jurisdiction could convict Democrats on thin charges. But everything we’re talking about above is more speculative and nonspecific than the evidence and charges against Trump in the Manhattan case. The same goes with the many Republican theories about the purported “weaponization” of the justice system and government.

And that’s after years of Republicans seeking to turn over every stone in search of dirt on their opponents and abuses of the system.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post
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