MY CASE FOR PROSECUTING TRUMP*
Untitled, Oil on Canvas, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
Will the United States hold to account the most notorious criminal in the country (if not the world), the person at the highest level of government who publicly flaunts the law and its application to him and his loyalists? Repairing his destruction to fundamental principles and institutions will be incomplete and lack credibility absent aggressive investigation and prosecution.
[Given Trump’s relentless conspiracy to discredit Biden’s win and his loss by 6,194,083 votes (and counting) and 74 electoral votes, I borrow some language from a recent post discussing the continuing grift.]
The damage Trump is inflicting on the foundational principle of liberal democracy – the mechanism by which individual citizens participate in self-government and together decide who our leaders will be – is unforgivable. The domestic attacks are considerably more insidious and damaging than those brought by foreign actors. Why? The country cannot unite against a common enemy but instead divides against itself. Moreover, the perpetrator’s substantial, but minority, following includes people whom Trump has encouraged (people who are willing, if not eager) to commit acts of domestic terror when Trump doesn’t get his way.
In February 2018 a grand jury returned an indictment against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for conspiring to defraud the United States. According to the indictment, these Russians and their companies were seeking to “impair, obstruct and defeat the lawful governmental functions of the United States by dishonest means in order to enable them to interfere with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
United States v. Internet Research Agency, et al., United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Case No. 1:18-cr-00032-DLF Document 1, Filed 02/16/18.
The next United States Attorney General should use the Mueller Indictment as template for bringing criminal charges against all participants in the current Trump-led and -inspired conspiracy to “impair, obstruct and defeat the lawful governmental functions of the United States by dishonest means in order to enable them to interfere with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the  U.S. presidential election.” The underlying criminal statute, the elements of the crime and the principles are the same. Complete the investigation, change a few names, tweak the facts, indict. Trump and his co-conspirators’ criminal activities likely reached Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin and other states.
Even if Trump finesses his own lawful, unqualified pardon for federal crimes, the Department of Justice should reprise his role as Individual-1 – unindicted co-conspirator (in the Michael Cohen prosecution for violating campaign finance laws in cheating his way to the presidency). The rule of law and its equal application also require a challenge to all corrupt pardons, including those extended by Trump to himself and Trump’s quos to the pardoneds' quids.
In one of his stupidest but, naturally, attention-seeking tweets in recent history, Trump intimated he won’t leave the White House unless Biden proves a negative—that his victory wasn’t based on fraud:
“Biden can only enter the White House as President if he can prove that his ridiculous ‘80,000,000 votes’ were not fraudulently or illegally obtained. When you see what happened in Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia & Milwaukee, massive voter fraud, he’s got a big unsolvable problem!”
Despite Trump’s burden-shifting confusion and feigned ignorance (Biden’s so-called “problem” will soon resolve by simple operation of law – as will the end of the one-term Trump era) Trump is helping Biden prove his case to the American people. Trump just spent $3,000,000 of contributor funds – that’s $22,727,27 per new Biden vote – in a recount that increased Biden’s lead in Milwaukee County by 132 votes.
Untitled, Watercolor, Richard J Van Wagoner, Courtesy of Van Wagoner Family Trust**
I have a general understanding of one’s need for meaning and relevance. For Trump, attention, including negative attention, seems a wholly adequate substitute for anything meaningful or relevant. Trump’s pathological need, which the country has suffered for more than four years, is largely symbolized by his latest “massive grift.” Denver Riggleman (R- Virginia). https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewsolender/2020/11/28/im-sick-of-it-gop-rep-denver-riggleman-unloads-on-republican-colleagues-trump/
“Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
I look forward to a time, in the near future I trust, when Trump “just goes back to being another crackpot on the internet” (CNN’s Jim Acosta), and his only meaningful relevance to government is relegated to the consequences of reinforcing and preserving the rule of law and its equal application. Having flaunted the law for decades leading up to his presidency, during his entire administration and ongoing in real time, Trump should be prosecuted for the many alleged crimes against the United States which remain viable under applicable statutes of limitation. Low hanging fruit includes campaign finance violations, bribery and solicitation of bribery and obstruction of justice. Others might entail a series of tax crimes, foreign corrupt practices act violations involving Putin and a proposed $50,000,000 penthouse condominium in Moscow, bank and insurance fraud, money laundering and racketeer influenced corrupt organization (RICO) violations.
Some opine the country cannot heal if Trump is prosecuted for his crimes (crimes nearly 74 million people do not believe or don’t care that he committed). They suggest that the inevitable revolt and further division would not be worth the benefit to preserving and reinforcing this defining principle of self-government in the United States: the rule of law that no one, including – especially – the most powerful elected official, is above.
Others, including me, insist the rule of law can never be vindicated and preserved absent thorough investigation and prosecution of all crimes for which proof beyond a reasonable doubt and a likelihood of conviction exist. If not, many argue, Trump — whose emergence to the presidency and entire administration were and continue to be defined by a level of corruption never before encountered in the highest office of the American experiment — will have proved to himself and some 74 million Americans he is above it and a double standard exists.
For more than any of Trump’s many other sins against the United States and its citizens (sans his disastrously inhumane, incompetent response to the pandemic), Trump must be held to account for the crimes he is committing as he employs every conceivable, including illegal, means to hold onto power by overturning or nullifying the will of the voters, an uncontestible majority that gave Biden (and democracy) a substantial victory in the arcane, conservative-favored electoral college.
By giving Trump and his co-conspirators their day in court, this country might rebuild and reinfore confidence in the rule of law and the integrity of electoral system, and counteract the false information about his administration — that Trump won the 2020 presidential election or that Biden would not have won but for massive fraud. Let Trump and his co-conspirators try to develop and introduce admissible evidence that he won the election or that Biden rode a massive wave of fraud into the White House. The country, indeed, the world, will witness that the United States holds its leaders to the same standards it holds the rest of its citizens — accountable for their crimes against the United States, especially for crimes that undermine the country's foundational principles and institutions.
And Trump will get the attention his personality disorder so desperately craves. Everybody wins.
*My brother the very talented fiction writer and novelist, Robert Hodgson Van Wagoner, deserves considerable credit for offering both substantive and technical suggestions to https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com. Rob’s second novel, a beautifully written suspense drama that takes place in Utah, Wyoming and Norway, dropped on November17, 2020 fall. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Bookstore and your favorite local bookshop, this novel, The Contortionists, which Rob himself narrates for the audio version, is a psychological page-turner about a missing child in a predominantly Mormon community.
**Richard J Van Wagoner is my father. His list of honors, awards and professional associations is extensive. He was Professor Emeritus (Painting and Drawing), Weber State University, having served three Appointments as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts there. He guest-lectured and instructed at many universities and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. He was invited to submit his work as part of many shows and exhibitions, and his work was exhibited in a number of traveling shows domestically and internationally. My daughter Angela Moore, a professional photographer, photographed more than 500 pieces of my father's work. On behalf of the Van Wagoner Family Trust, she is in the process of compiling a collection of his art work. The photographs of my father's art reproduced in https://medium.com/@richardvanwagoner and https://lastamendment.com are hers