by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
If recklessly lying to voters were a crime, most everyone in D.C. would be serving life in solitary confinement at Supermax. But in a liberal democracy, as frustrating as it often is, political misconduct is settled by voters and elections, not partisan prosecutors or rioters.
Feel free to campaign and vote against Donald Trump if you like. I’m certainly no fan. If Trump wins in 2024, Congress can impeach and remove him if they choose. But just as there was no special set of rules that could keep Trump in the White House in 2020, there shouldn’t be an exclusive set of rules to keep him out, either.
Yet special counsel Jack Smith’s indictments over Jan. 6 read like a political oppo document cobbled together by some partisan House staffers who perfunctorily tacked on the last-minute novel legal reasoning.
Though numerous commentators who have an aversion to Trump have pointed out the weakness of the indictments, it’s quite telling how little media-approved historians and legal “experts” even bother defending the underlying legal case. Trump is evil, a threat to “democracy,” and really what else is there to discuss? In the Trump-addled politics of our age, it is virtually impossible for either side to compartmentalize the process and the person if that person happens to be Trump.
In this case, the precedent would criminalize and chill political speech. People keep assuring me the indictments aren’t really about the expression but rather about defrauding the government. Sorry, the entire case is predicated on the things Trump said or believed or didn’t say or didn’t believe. All of it should be protected under the First Amendment. “Spreading lies” — prosecutors leaned on the thesaurus hard, finding about two dozen ways of repeating this fact — or entertaining theories offered by crackpot lawyers, or trying to convince faithless electors to do things that people have been trying to convince faithless electors to do for a long time, are all unethical, not criminal.