The only way to stop the next Trump administration is to prosecute the last one.
Democracy hangs by a thin thread as we struggle against the authoritarian death cult impulses of the current Republican Party. The situation is dire and requires fighters for justice rather than traditional institutionalists. Attorney General Merrick Garland steps in repeatedly to protect Trump from non-work-related activities (such as defaming an alleged sexual assault victim) and now his DOJ is refusing to prosecute Trump administration member Wilbur Ross for lying to Congress.
What do our laws mean when they don’t apply to certain people? How is the restoration of confidence in the US “justice” system?
The Department of Commerce Inspector General’s report confirmed Congressional Democrats’ findings from their investigation that former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross misled Congress by making false statements about the origins and purpose of the Trump administration’s proposed citizenship issue in the 2020 census .
Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Chair of the Oversight and Reform Committee, made the following statement Monday: “The Independent Inspector General has confirmed what the Oversight Committee found in our extensive investigation: that Secretary of State Ross tells Congress and the American people about the truth has misled motivations for the Trump administration’s illegal efforts to add a citizenship issue to the census. Lying to Congress is unacceptable and the IG did the right thing by referring Minister Ross’ behavior to the Justice Department.
“It is appalling that the Trump administration has subjected an endeavor as important as the ten-year census to brazen political manipulation. The previous administration’s efforts to skew the census for political reasons put millions of Americans at risk, losing federal resources and agencies, and I am proud of the fight we won on behalf of all Americans to fend off this partisan attack.
“In the future, I will continue the committee’s investigation to determine the full extent of the Trump administration’s political interference in the census and to find ways to strengthen the census bureau’s independence and protect future censuses from tampering.”
However, the Biden Justice Department will not prosecute Trump officials after the Inspector General confirmed that former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross misled Congress.
“The IG said it presented its findings to the Public Integrity Division of the Justice Division of the Ministry’s Criminal Division, but the division declined to pursue a prosecution. Under the Trump administration, the judiciary also refused to prosecute Ross and others after Democrats voted to despise them for refusing to release documents related to citizenship decision-making.
The judiciary did not respond to an investigation into why they refused to prosecute. “
Denied charges. This is a phrase rarely used by poor Americans, black Americans, and people of color – it is used in cases where the word “traditional” plays an awkward role.
Law professor at Western New England University School of Law and author of the new book BIG DIRTY MONEY, Jennifer Taub commented, “The Garland DOJ will follow the tradition of admitting whites, rich, and well-connected individuals with no consequence to crime, on the grounds that if it looks the other way for elite criminals regardless of political party, then all is well. It’s not fair”.
Is there any justification for “refusing to prosecute” Ross? Maybe. But we are not privy to it, if so. And the real question here is if the law doesn’t apply to former governments because everyone is so scared that they are getting into what the Trump administration actually did, it seems like the best course of action to tackle the crime of the Demonstrating Trump administration rather than hoping the next president won’t do what he got away with.
So far, the hope that the bad guys just get the news that they were bad and decide to get better hasn’t worked as well. Ignoring obvious attacks on democracy is not a course of action that inhibits future behavior; it is unfortunately an invitation to do more of that.
It is widely suggested that Garland must act cautiously lest he martyr Trump for 2024. But Trump will play the martyr without any help. He invents things as skillfully as the Democrats who take the reins in hand. There is no deal to be made with the devil here. The only deal that will save us is to obey the law as vigorously with elite, wealthy white men as it is with anyone else.
None of this is intended to suggest that the Garland DOJ should operate in any manner other than as a keeper of the law. This is not about party politics; it’s about the law. And the fundamental question: if some people are above the law, then we really have a democracy.
After all, what incentive is there for a government to obey a law that does not apply to it? Trump has shown us how powerless it is to hope for decency and ethics. We cannot afford to rely on the media and voters to decide their individual character over money bait like on the Trump show.
The Garland group has so far shown no promising signs of being able to cope with the upcoming clean-up work after an authoritarian regime. To save democracy at this point in time, it takes a person of Garland’s integrity (and that is out of the question), but also a person with moral courage – perhaps someone who has been on the other side of privilege and understands that you really are the ship cannot be right by embracing the mighty.
Garland still has time to face the situation, but democracy is only as good as the perception of its legitimacy. An entire administration of lawless attacks on democracy and vulnerable citizens excused by the judiciary to maintain a bubble-induced sense of the restoration of tradition will fail.
Ms. Jones is the Co-Founder / Editor-in-Chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House Press Pool.
Sarah moderates Politicus News and is co-host of Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news, talk shows, and print media, including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.