Elizabeth Holtzman, who served on the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 when it recommended articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon and later served as district attorney in Brooklyn, knows a thing or two about dealing with criminal behavior.
Based on that experience, she firmly believes that Donald Trump should be prosecuted once his term as president ends on Jan. 20.
In her opinion, “presidents are not entitled to immunity. The (U.S.) Constitution explicitly states that a president can be tried and prosecuted for crimes committed in office. Former President Nixon and Trump himself were subjects of criminal investigations, and a grand jury named Nixon an unindicted co-conspirator. If presidents who commit crimes in office cannot be prosecuted while in office — and aren’t to be prosecuted when they leave — they have impunity. That presents a grave threat to our democracy by removing the strongest deterrent to presidential criminality.”
She also emphatically rejects the notion that Trump should just be let to drift off to the sunny confines of Mar-a-Lago so that the nation can “heal” under the presidency of Joe Biden.
“Is ‘healing’ a more important national objective than protecting our democracy from future presidents who commit crimes thinking they’re immune from criminal law?” she asks. “Is it more important than the principle of equality under law, so that a spy who sells secrets to China gets punished but a president who conspires with Russia, say, to win an election, doesn’t?”
The trailblazing 79-year-old former lawmaker, however, is not naive. She recognizes that Trump has a hard core following that will never believe he’s done anything illegal. Still, holding him accountable is worth doing.
“A serious investigation and prosecution, resting on robust evidence and conducted fairly, may have a similar effect as the Watergate hearings,” Holtzman explains. “Even if Trump’s core supporters aren’t persuaded by airing factual evidence, millions of other Americans will be. Most importantly, prosecuting Trump would set an indelible precedent — and lay down a marker that future presidents must heed.”