So we should feed the beast, as it were, and let Trump continue to be unaccountable? That’s utterly unacceptable in what is ostensibly a nation of laws. Your argument boils down to a more polished version of, “Just do what they say, and maybe no one gets hurt.” After all, who is served by letting Trump skate? Certainly not the American people. And I’d encourage you to stay conscious of a key relevant fact: Having announced news of the search, Trump is solely responsible for the ensuing theatrics, as are the cynical and sociopathic politicians and commentators who are rushing to defend him without knowing what’s even happening. Because ultimately none of them really cares whether Trump is a criminal.

Expand full comment

You're not wrong in your analysis of the issue but, even realizing that the consequences of prosecuting Trump are likely to include rightwing political violence, the consequences of allowing the former president to flout the rule of law are equally horrendous. If Trump committed illegal acts (and he very likely did) allowing him to skate reinforces the already prevalent view that the rule of law applies only to the poor and the stupid. Prosecuting Trump will exacerbate pre-existing political fault lines, but those lines existed pre-Trump encouraged by Fox News grievance culture on the right and woke-ism on the left. The middle ground, like the middle class, has been hollowed out. We're left with opposing political camps who see each other not as rivals with differing views who share a love of country, but as mortal enemies. Whether the DOJ ultimately prosecuted Trump or not, those divisions won't be healed anytime soon.

Expand full comment
Aug 10, 2022·edited Aug 10, 2022

I wish Damon Linker would address duties of the authorities involved in our constitutional order.

The DOJ's first duty is to the law, their job is to make lawyerly judgments. I have heard the arguments about prosecutorial discretion, they really don't apply here, discretion is about whether the offenses are severe and allocation of scarce resources, not speculation about how the politics will play out.

The president has the pardon power for exactly this reason, as the highest elected official he is empowered to make the decision Linker promotes. Empowered to make that decision prudentially, with an eye on the political fallout, as Gerald Ford made a similar decision decades ago.

For the unaccountable Merrick Garland to make this call is unconscionable. It short circuits the constitutional order. How could such a decision by a single cabinet official be accepted by the country? I can accept a decision in either direction by the proper authority, which is Biden exercising the pardon power under the Constitution. I cannot accept the Attorney General usurping his authority and making this intrinsically political decision.

Check this article in the New Your Review of Books.


I have spoken to several lawyers, this is a mainstream view of the constitutional order.

As to the politics and the prudence of the issue, it is far too early to tell. We do not know what the DOJ is doing, we do not know the evidence. In the end, after the evidence and the strength of the case are known Biden's best choice may indeed be to pardon Trump. Linker shows some modesty about this judgment, but not enough. He shows no awareness it is far too early to tell.

Note the Jan 6 hearings have not torn the country in two. The judicial process will not tear it in two either. If we are lucky the result will be similar - Trump true believers are not persuaded but the bulk of the country becomes better informed. The great thing about the pardon power is that it can be exercised at any time. Pro-actively, like Ford, all the way to post-conviction.

Expand full comment

Things are bad, and I'm afraid they will get worse. I really hope that the Democrats can at least hold off the worst of the Republican candidates this fall. Beating Rs ate the polls will be the best way to defeat the illiberal Rs. I think that the DOJ should prosecute Trump if they have an airtight case. Yes, there will be unrest, but unrest is coming no matter what. I think it would be better to lance the boil and let things happen as they may. To let Trump skate will only further embolden him and his followers and things will be much worse. I don't see how this ends peacefully, so I'd rather see it come to a head sooner rather than later.

Expand full comment

Americans are clueless as to what real political unrest means (it is violently horrible, in myriad ways).

Yet many of us immigrant Americans who should know better about revolutions (Cubans, Venezuelans, etc.) are vastly over-represented in the flag-carrying groups outside Mar-A-Lago (there was even a Cuban flag flying on the first night).

Once again, I caution Americans about Latino immigration: As you let in people with different cultural beliefs, and give them the right to vote, you are betting that they will not bring violent revolutionary fervors with them -- Good luck with that.

Expand full comment
Aug 12, 2022·edited Aug 12, 2022

"The rule of law can't be vindicated if half the country thinks the effort to do so is a sham"

Fortunately I think the number is more like 40%. This isn't quibbling. 60% is enough.

Expand full comment

Let the right engage in violence and try to steal an election. As soon as people get hurt and die the country will turn against them. Then we can put trump and his fascists down for once and for all.

Expand full comment

I’m feeling quite gloomy, but

everything that could happen on a large scale is outside of my control. I can vote and I can act in what I consider a responsible and neighborly manner. So that’s where I’ll try to focus.

Expand full comment

I wish I didn’t agree with you but I have real feeling of foreboding

And this comes just as the Democrats were gaining some political momentum, which will now be drowned out in the general hysteria

Expand full comment

You could argue that the raid itself is feeding the beast. However, if they do find nuclear-related documents that threatened national security, which now seems possible, I'll have to admit that the search was a very unfortunate necessity.

Expand full comment

Damon Linker's piece is cited in Michelle Goldberg's new op-ed


She has the better argument. I'm a broken record on this but if Trump is let off it should be via the pardon power, not a political decision made by a prosecutor.

Expand full comment