Will Donald Trump walk away from his presidency scot-free?
That’s the frightening prospect the nation faces after the term of perhaps the least law-abiding president in history ends if one is to put any credence in the reports the President-elect Joe Biden is privately telling advisors that he doesn’t want his own presidency to be overwhelmed by endless investigations of his predecessor.
According to an NBC News report sourced from five people with knowledge of the discussions, Biden is leery of a long series of probes into Trump’s conduct that would continue to divide the country at a time when his paramount goal is to try to reunite the nation.
Biden is also worried that such investigations would continue to allow Trump to remain in the spotlight and dominate the news cycles with his endless tweets declaring his victimization and absolving himself of any responsibilities whatsoever for the transgressions of his administration.
The president-elect reportedly specifically mentioned the wisdom of avoiding federal tax investigations of his vanquished foe and of challenging any immunity orders or pardons that Trump may issue in his lame-duck weeks ahead, with one advisor saying that Biden “just wants to move on.”
“He’s going to be more oriented toward fixing the problems and moving forward than prosecuting them,” another advisor explained.
While it is understandable that the goal of bringing the country back from the precipice of the potential civil war that Donald Trump seemed to be attempting to instigate with his calls for right-wing militias to “stand by,” Biden’s reported desire to drop efforts to hold the current president accountable for his misdeeds may conflict with another one of his stated ambitions: the restoration of the independence of the Justice Department from the White House.
After Donald Trump finally managed to wrestle the Justice Department into submission and make it a politically-tainted arm of his own defense strategy under Attorney General William Barr, returning the nation to an unbiased rule of law rather than of favored connections will need to be a top priority for the incoming administration.
With that in mind, Biden may be reluctant to dictate which prosecutions to pursue to whomever he appoints as his own Attorney General.
“His overarching view is that we need to move the country forward,” one advisor said, according to NBC News. “But the most important thing on this is that he will not interfere with his Justice Department and not politicize his Justice Department.”
“He can set a tone about what he thinks should be done,” another Biden advisor explained. But, the advisor continued, “he’s not going to be a president who directs the Justice Department one way or the other.”
Of course, Biden can heavily influence the direction his new Department of Justice takes through his choice of the person he nominates to become his attorney general, a decision that his aides have called “one of the most consequential decisions he’s going to make,” as one advisor described it.
One of the dangers of telegraphing in advance that prosecutions of Donald Trump and his loyal White House minions are not a priority for the Biden administration — besides lots of angry progressives looking for this administration to finally be held accountable for the boatload of criminal offenses that they perceive it has committed — is that it will embolden Trump to take advantage of the lame-duck period over the upcoming weeks and run rampant through the federal government in an unchecked crime spree with little chance of consequences for their actions.
“While they’re not looking for broad criminal indictments, they do want to make sure that people don’t think there are no ramifications for any of their actions between now and the new presidency,” a person familiar with the incoming administration’s thinking said.
While the final disposition of any potential charges against Trump himself will likely be at the discretion of the next attorney general, Biden is apparently reluctant to alienate the 47.3% percent of the nation who voted for the Republican incumbent, particularly with the balance of power in the Senate — and the future potential to pass his legislative agenda — dependent on the outcome of the runoff elections in Georgia.
Perhaps his best move is to first investigate the sins of the Trump administration, deliver the truth about what actually happened to the American public, and let the Justice Department make a decision on prosecution depending on the facts uncovered.
Hopefully, the citizens of this country will unite behind the rule of law when confronted with unbiased evidence.
Whether the right-wing media machine will ever allow this to happen is the big question. The profit motive has historically outweighed justice and truth in this country, and conflict sells.
In the meantime, those who want to see Trump held accountable may have to place their hopes in state attorneys general and continue to use social media to push their viewpoint.
Original reporting by Carol E. Lee, Kristen Welker, and Mike Memoli at NBC News.
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