Can your Country Take its ex-President to Trial for Unlawful, Criminal Acts?

Chido Nwangwu writes about the ongoing trial of former President of the United States, Donald J Trump and wondered if other countries can try their ex-Presidents for unlawful and criminal acts.

it was Carl Sandburg (January 6, 1878 – July 22, 1967), winner of three Pulitzer Prizes, poet, journalist and author of the highly-acclaimed biography of Abraham Lincoln who famously wrote that: “If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.”

At this point, until the trial, testimonies and relevant sets of evidence go through the standards of the court and the laws of the United States of America, we may not know enough, in order to conclude who the facts are for or against.

Regardless, the immediate former President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, may have heard about Carl Sandburg; no wonder he has been using the late Sandburg’s recommended second option as his initial, preliminary tactical position: “pound the table and yell like hell.”  

A few days before Mr. Trump made a “not guilty” plea, at the federal court in Miami, Florida, the man practically yelled in a speech at the Georgia Republican state convention: “They took one charge, and they made it 36 different times. And we have a thug who is in charge. This is a political hit job, Republicans are treated far differently at the Justice Department than Democrats.”

Trump is facing a 37-count federal indictment, including charges of willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, making false statements and improper handling of national security information.

The indictment lists his failing to return such classified documents with plans for a U.S retaliatory attack on an unnamed foreign power, defense and weapon capabilities of the U.S., secret details of the U.S. nuclear program, among other charges. 

In the history of the United States, it is the first time a sitting or former Commander-in-Chief has faced federal charges as revealed in the unsealed and detailed reports of June 9, 2023.

Trump turned 77 years old this week; he was born on June 14, 1946. He served as the 45th President of the United States from 2017 to 2021.

In terms of consequence, or should I say potential consequences,  Prof. Jonathan Turley, a highly respected constitutional scholar who usually holds conservative views, has made a note of caution via FoxNews to Mr. Trump, specifically:

“All the government has to do is stick the landing on one count and he could have a terminal sentence. You’re talking about crimes that have a 10 or 20-year period as a maximum. The evidence here is quite strong and we haven’t heard their other side. Generally, these indictments are a lot stronger on the day they’re issued than the next day. So they may be able to knock down some of these issues, but some of this evidence is coming from his former counsel. And these are very damaging statements made against him. It may be hard to move those. The fact is both things may be true. Yes, the Department of Justice may have been out to get him, but he made it easy.

I mean, if you look at what is being described in this indictment, confronted with someone that he felt was trying to get him, he couldn’t have made it more easy for them to do so.”

Similarly, the very experienced lawyer that former President Trump appointed as Attorney General Bill Barr has a grim reading of the situation of things regarding Trump’s indictment:  “If even half of [the indictment] is true then he’s toast. It’s a very detailed indictment, and it’s very, very damning.”

Barr who you may recall resigned as Trumps Attorney General of the United States during the final year of the Trump presidency seems offended by Trump’s strategy of victimhood:

“This idea of presenting Trump as a victim here–the victim of a witch hunt–is ridiculous. Yes, he’s been a victim in the past. Yes his adversaries have obsessively pursued him with phony claims, and I’ve been at his side defending him when he is a victim, but this is much different. He’s not a victim here.”

Barr concluded without mincing words, that: “He (Trump) was totally wrong that he had the right to have those documents. Those documents are among the most sensitive secrets the country has.”

Without any doubt, these are risky, perilous and slippery times for Trump. There’s no anarchy in the land or warfare across these United States of America, because the unusual events of the indictment of this immediate former President or any other President or Governor.

The issues are challenged and tried through the courts of the land. The big lesson for many countries in the world, especially in Nigeria and African continent, is that regardless of its evident imperfections, the rule of law is important and primary, no matter who you are! President or pauper! Although there are institutional disadvantages weighing down on the capacities of African-Americans and order financially challenged communities regarding the justice system and court processes.

In fact, one of the greatest Presidents of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), underscored it with these timeless words:  “Americanism is a question of principle, of purpose, of idealism, of character. It is not a matter of birthplace or creed or line of descent.”

I still believe that America’s real strength rests on the prudent balance of the constitutional assignment of roles and the moral clarity and courage to execute obligations with a certain sense of fairness and principles. 

One question: Can your country take its ex-President to trial for unlawful, criminal acts?

-Dr Nwangwu is Founder of the first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper on the internet,

Follow him on Twitter @Chido247

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