House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her fellow Democrats last week that she doesn’t want President Trump “impeached,” she wants him “in prison.” She hopes to beat the president of the United States in his bid for re-election, have a new Democratic president indict and convict him for real or imagined crimes, and celebrate as he’s hauled off to a federal correctional institution.
Mrs. Pelosi is apparently trying to fend off fellow Democrats intent upon spending the next year investigating and impeaching the president because the political backlash impeachment could generate might actually play to the president’s benefit. By assuring the impeachment mongers in her caucus that she hates Mr. Trump as much as they do and has a better way to get him, she seems to be hoping to calm her colleagues and maintain control of the caucus, but it would be a mistake to dismiss her words as mere political hyperbole.
Progressive Democrats at all levels are increasingly convinced that a weaponized a criminal justice system can and should be used against those with whom they disagree because they view their opponents as not simply wrong, but evil, corrupt and, yes, criminal. In the brave new world they hope to bring into being, those who dare to disagree will be silenced, driven from the public square and in the best case scenario, put behind bars where they won’t threaten the emergence of the new utopia.
They know, as does anyone with knowledge of how the system actually works that our laws have become so tangled and complex that they can be misused. If the Department of Justice or a state or local prosecutor really wants to “get” someone it can be done. Trumping up charges against Mr. Trump would be easy enough for a prosecutor with orders from on high.
In the past, politicians of both parties have abused the system to go after their political opponents. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Barack Obama are among those who, while president, ordered or at least suggested from the Oval Office that prosecutors target political opponents whose views they found distasteful. Governors and mayors have done the same thing often more blatantly and more successfully than presidents, but the progressives who dominate the Democratic Party today seem bent on systematizing the practice.
Decades ago, while fishing Wisconsin’s “Driftless Area,” a Midwestern trout fisherman’s mecca, we stopped at a local diner for an early breakfast. As the short-order cook — who, as it turned out, was also the owner — fried our eggs, I spotted his law degree on the wall and asked why he was cooking our breakfast rather than practicing law. He said he moved to rural Wisconsin and bought the diner in which we sat because while an assistant prosecutor in his native Chicago he couldn’t look himself in the mirror after realizing that a good percentage of those he was prosecuting were not criminals, but enemies of then-Mayor Richard J. Dailey’s political machine.
If the mayor wanted to use the criminal justice system to railroad his enemies, he would have to do it without this man’s help. “I resigned, left Chicago so that I could sleep at night and look myself in the mirror when I get up in the morning.” Things have gotten worse since we sat down to enjoy that breakfast. In recent years “progressive” politicians have argued that those who deviate from the politically correct position on any number of issues be jailed.
Progressive politicians have suggested, for example, that those who reject their views on “global warming” now “climate change” are criminals who deserve prosecution, prison or worse. A couple of years ago, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. accused those who reject the “consensus” view on climate change of “treason” and urged that the CEOs of coal companies should be “jailed for all eternity.”
More recently, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, urged that racketeering charges be filed against oil and coal producers who he too believes belong in prison for doing their jobs. He would also criminalize those running non-profits that disagree with his life views.
Senator and presidential wannabe Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, wants to lower the bar for prosecuting and locking up business executives she believes are all part of a criminal class. Congress and many progressives don’t seem to mind prosecutors who ignore the “Brady Rule” requiring prosecutors to turn exculpatory evidence over to the defense when targeting their enemies. That’s how they convicted the late Ted Stevens, the Republican Alaska senator who was eventually and at great expense exonerated because of prosecutorial cheating. Ignoring such niceties also helped Robert Mueller’s prosecutors get Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos
Testifying before a Senate Committee recently, Attorney General William Barr said “We have to stop using the criminal justice process as a political weapon.” One can only hope.
• David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.
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