(Author’s Note: This is the 12th in a series of occasional political columns that I’ll be writing for CommPRO.biz until Inauguration Day, January 20. Previously, I wrote 17 political columns leading up to Election Day. FYI: My first public relations job was with a political firm, where I worked on local, statewide and presidential campaigns. In this column I write that a person’s remarks must be taken seriously and why Donald Trump should be prosecuted.)
This is a column I never expected to write. I had planned to submit a column on January 6 about how despite Donald Trump’s evil wantonness Congress would, as they normally do, approve the Electoral College votes that elected Joe Biden as president in a perfunctory manner as it has since the founding of the United States. Obviously, that did not happen. And Donald Trump was the disrupter.
Excuse makers for President Trump promised that after his “cooling off” period and disappointment after being rejected for a second term, the orderly transition of the presidency would prevail. Then they said that he was using the “rigged election” as a fund raising tool and that the president would participate in the orderly transition of the presidency. Then they said that Trump might not attend Biden’s inauguration or concede but would leave the White House peacefully. Boy, were they entirely wrong. So was I, but not as wrong as the Trump excusers. I never thought that Trump would leave the White House gracefully or concede. Score one for me. But I also never thought he would actively attempt a coup and suggest his followers resort to violence. Score one against me.
I also never thought of writing a column about an American president refusing to relinquish the office after being defeated in an election. It is a column I hoped that I never had to write. I never thought that an American president would ask a secretary of state “to give me a break” and plead that votes be manipulated so a state’s Electoral College votes would be in his favor. It is a line I never thought I would have to write.
But, thankfully, the United States has never had a president like Donald Trump. And, hopefully, they will never have one like him again.
Prior to his defeat on November 3, I was ambivalent about whether Trump should be prosecuted for crimes after he leaves office. Prosecuting him wouldn’t help heal the nation’s schism that he has deliberately created. It would make it worse, I reasoned. Now after inciting his followers to violence as the Electoral College votes were being counted on January 6, I believe he must be prosecuted, along with Rudy Giuliani for his “trail by combat” remarks and Donald Trump Jr., who told the crowd of protesters, “It should be a message to all the Republicans who have not been willing to actually fight the people who did nothing to stop the steal,” which along with President Trump’s remarks of “You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.” “Our country has had enough and we will not take it any more” incited the insurrection that gave permission to the crowd to storm the Capitol. (Statements that encourage violence and true threats of violence comments are not protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution since 1919.)
While current state investigations are undergoing to determine if Trump or his businesses have committed crimes, previous investigations show that he did commit fraud. That’s why his Trump University and Trump charity were legally punished for fraudulent activities. But after his actions since he was rejected by voters in a fair election, and especially his conduct when he asked Georgia’s Secretary of State to manipulate the votes so he would be the winner, I now feel that this most delusional, dangerous, autocratic president must be prosecuted.
The bill of charges against his attempted coup are too numerous to enumerate and date back to events before he took the oath of office which says, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” As the more than 22,000 lies that he has told (and been fact checked) since he swore to do so, he also obviously lied then.
The most odious of Trump’s actions, before inciting an insurrection on January 6, were his attempt to remain in office by a coup, closely followed by his sanctioning violent behavior by asking his followers to “liberate” themselves from their democratically elected state governors. These two occurrences alone demand that his actions should be adjudicated in a court of law.
But wait. There are more reasons to prosecute:
- Prior to January. 6, the day Congress met to accept the presidential election results showing that President-elect Joe Biden won the election, Trump promised a “wild” protest in Washington, D.C., as he tweeted that “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election.” “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” Another tweet said, ” “The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C. will take place at 11.00 A.M. on January 6th… StopTheSteal”. He’s said the rally “will be wild.”
- Given what has happened during other Trump-promoted protests over his election loss, only those Trump backers who are in delusional lock-step denial with the president about the election results can believe that Trump’s tweet and backing of the protests would not result in or encourage violence. And it did, when pro-Trump protesters wearing Trump attire and waving confederate flags broke through police barriers and entered the Capitol, causing the doors to the Senate and House to be locked and having House members and the vice-president escorted to safety by the police while thousands more clashed with police in the streets. (During another pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rally in D.C. in December, several people were stabbed and more than 30 were arrested in clashes between protesters and counter- protesters, a CBS news story on January 4 reported.) The probability of violence in the nation’s capitol was so great on January 5 and 6 that the Washington D.C. National Guarded activated 340 troops to augment the D.C. police force. But it obviously was not enough.
- Trump has continually slandered election officials, his opponents, the companies that manufactured the voting machines and threatened those in his party who were brave enough to speak on behalf of American democratic traditions.
- He has abused the presidential pardon power by commuting or pardoning supporters of his who were convicted of crimes.
For those of you who follow politics, Trump’s “me first” autocratic tendencies are not a surprise.
- He has used the political process, especially the office of the Attorney General, to do his biddings, instead of allowing justice to be decided impartially.
- As he did before his 2016 victory and prior to his 2020 defeat, he has claimed that if he losses it will be because of a rigged election.
- He has expressed admiration for autocratic rulers including Vladimir Putin, the president-dictator of Russia, Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary, President Xi Jinping of China, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.
- He has said that the Constitution permits him unlimited power, like Richard Nixon opined in a 2007 interview with David Frost, saying, that when a president does something it is not illegal.
- In September, Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election. (Many pundits and politicians didn’t take him seriously at the time. Now they know better. Sen. Susan
Collins said that she voted against impeaching the president because he had learned a “pretty big lesson” and will act differently in the future. Since then the president has acted even more autocratic. Now she knows better.)
To those who know the history of Germany, Trump’s actions resemble those of Adolph Hitler, who turned the democratic Weimer Republic into a dictatorship. Many of Trump’s actions are mirror-images of Hitler’s.
- Hitler believed that if you tell a lie that is so outrageous people will have to believe it is the truth. Ditto Trump.
- Hitler used small bands of followers to cause disruptions and much worse in the days before he gained absolute power. Ditto Trump.
- Hitler pointed to weak Germans for the decline of Germany. Substitute the United States and Americans for Germans and Germany. Ditto Trump.
- Hitler said all his actions were to make Germany great again. Substitute “United States” for Germany. Ditto Trump.
The similarities between Hitler and Trump are not to be taken lightly. Democracy was doomed in Germany because too many people thought Hitler’s reign would only be a fleeting happening that would be rejected by its citizens. Trump has demonstrated since he was initially inaugurated as president that he has autocratic beliefs and has acted on them. They should not be considered an ephemeral moment in American history. Everyone who believes in democracy and the Constitution must take his words and actions seriously.
Trump’s presidency has been a carbon copy of tactics used by autocratic regimes. If only to demonstrate to future president’s that they are not above the rule of law and that the U.S. is still a democratic republic, Trump should be prosecuted in federal and in state courts. Too much is at stake to let bygones be bygones.
According to constitutional scholars, Trump has violated federal and state laws regarding defrauding an election. Federal and state attorney generals should prosecute him because if they don’t, it will encourage other would-be dictators.
About the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com