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Home » Clarion » 2024 » June 2024 » Trump must face the law

Trump must face the law

By PATRICE SCHIANO, NED BENTON, GLENN CORBETT, DANIEL FELDMAN, RANDALL LASALLE, CALVESTER LEGISTER, JUDY-LYNNE PETERS AND ITAI SNEH

Protestors carrying signs that say 'Not Above the Law'

Demonstrators say the law of the land applies to ex-presidents. (Photo Credit: Erik McGregor)

According to the United States Constitution, the role of the president is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” As educators at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, we take our responsibility to educate for justice seriously, because we believe that no one is above the law.

At John Jay, an institution of higher education that is part of CUNY, many of our students are disadvantaged and understand that sometimes life is not fair. We educate our students to be fierce advocates for justice in part by giving our students skills necessary to distinguish truth from fiction, right from wrong and understanding that there are consequences when people break the law. With this in mind, we must not remain silent when our elected officials abuse their authority to subvert our democracy and the values that we hold dear.

NOT FREE SPEECH

Our leaders should not lie or hide behind the First Amendment to encourage or engage in speech that incites violence, witness intimidation or denial of a fair and free election. The right to vote is a civil right, and for former President Donald Trump to try to deny this right by lying about the results of our election should give us more than just pause.

It’s court time for Trump. (Photo Credit: Tia Dufour; Official White House Photo)

Like our college’s namesake, who was one of our country’s founding fathers and the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, we believe that our democracy is based on the three branches of government to maintain the balance of power. John Jay’s leadership, faculty and alumni are composed of former and current Department of Justice officials, federal and state prosecutors, members of Inspectors General offices, law enforcement, as well as other public service professions whose mission is to see that our system of justice is fair and that people who break our laws are held accountable. In addition to justice, our core values include integrity, equity and respect. Our community not only believes in the rule of law, but it also believes in holding people accountable regardless of their status. We understand that to preserve the public trust, public service requires credibility and character beyond reproach.

THE FACTS

As our democracy struggles against the chaos created by a man who endangers his opponents with veiled threats and obfuscates his behavior by blaming everyone but himself, let’s consider the facts when deciding on whether a former president running for reelection should be held accountable. Our former president has been:

  1. Impeached two times and the subject of a bipartisan congressional investigation into his role in the January 6 insurrection based on his lie that the election was stolen.
  2. Criminally indicted four times by four different grand juries in four different jurisdictions by three different prosecutors. He will be tried by four different judges and four different juries composed of everyday citizens from different parts of our country with different political affiliations. These criminal indictments range from stealing our national secrets; lying about the results of our election to remain in power; inciting an insurrection; and making hush-money payments to a porn star to try to withhold derogatory information from voters that could have negatively impacted his election.
  3. The subject of numerous civil lawsuits, being named personally along with companies owned or controlled by him and his family – most notably a civil lawsuit brought by the New York State attorney general who has proven that the former president and his family engaged in material financial fraud. After an 11-week trial, the former president was ordered to pay in excess of $355 million in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and his ability to conduct business in New York is now strictly curtailed.
  4. Found responsible by a jury in a civil trial for sexual assault and continued to defame the victim even after the jury imposed fines and penalties in excess of $80 million.
  5. Litigating whether he should be immune from being held responsible for his alleged crimes.

Regardless of whether we decide to hold the former president accountable through our legal system, we should consider whether he is deserving of holding the highest office that our citizens can bestow on any one individual.  The former president has made fun of the handicapped and those of our veterans who have lost their lives defending our freedom; he has glorified dictators who have repressed their people; and his behavior, which continues to incite violence and could arguably be considered a national security threat, should not be tolerated by our citizens.

CONSTITUTION AT RISK

The preamble to the United States Constitution talks about establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility and promoting the general welfare. January 6 has proven that if the former president is reelected, these ideals are at risk. Can we trust that if he is reelected, he will uphold the Constitution? As president, is he capable of taking care that the laws be faithfully executed? Let’s not lose sight of the forest for the trees. We need to be vocal about what is at stake, lest our silence signal complicity. Given the facts, let’s think about the big picture and not be influenced by others but by common sense. Donald Trump has a history of skirting the law because he has demonstrated he does not believe that the law applies to him. As witnessed on January 6, without truth and the rule of law will come chaos.


The authors are faculty members at John Jay College.


Published: May 19, 2024

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