Former President Donald Trump is facing a wave of civil and criminal investigations. The American people are not accustomed to such probing, public inquiries of the business and political dealings of their former presidents. Yet, in light of the almost daily drumbeat of allegations and taunting between proponents and opponents of Trump in connection with every aspect of his personal, business, and political life, the fact of these investigations is no surprise. It is similarly not surprising to read daily dueling narratives regarding the merits of one or another aspect of the investigations.
Those pursuing the investigations face a daunting reality. In today’s toxic, hyper-partisan political environment — where hyperbole reigns and allegations of overreach and political motivation substitute for rational engagement and discussion — nothing they do will be accepted at face value. As such, the pressure on investigators and law enforcement is intense, and they need to exercise enormous care in all aspect of their activities.
In each case, Trump is entitled to the same rights guaranteed to every American: the right to due process, the right to protection from illegal search and seizure, the right to protection from self-incrimination, and the presumption of innocence. But also like every American, Trump is not entitled to declare himself exempt from the legal process.
In New York, Trump is being investigated for his business practices. In Georgia, the inquiry focuses on efforts to overturn his loss in that state in the 2020 presidential election. And, of course, there are multi-pronged investigations into the Jan. 6 riots in the Capitol. The House’s Jan. 6 Select Committee’s investigation has been intense and far-reaching; and the Department of Justice is also carrying out a criminal probe of the Jan. 6 riots, including issues relating to Trump’s involvement. Finally, press reports indicate that there are other governmental inquiries regarding other aspects of Trump’s actions while in office and immediately thereafter.
On Aug. 8, FBI agents executed a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and removed about a dozen boxes. Reports indicate that the seized documents had been improperly removed from the White House and not returned after several government requests. Trump himself and his army of supporters offer an entirely different narrative on those actions. On Aug. 11, at a deposition conducted by New York’s attorney general, Trump refused to answer questions about his business dealings, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Each of these processes should continue, and they will. Unfortunately, however, every step taken by either side will continue to be scrutinized, criticized, and characterized by warring spinmeisters with an eye toward scoring political points or achieving a political result rather than a legitimate, legal one. That is unfortunate, even if inevitable.
We are in for a noisy, messy and raucous process. Buckle up for a bumpy ride. Ignore the noise. Ignore the claims of righteousness. Ignore the claims of targeting or victimization.
Let the legal process play itself out and insist that both sides play by the rules. There is a lot riding on the results of each of the investigations. But there is even more riding on how both sides go about doing their work. We demand that it be done properly and with dignity.