Trump Should Be Prosecuted for Near-Death of Democracy


Some people who disagreed with the 2020 election attacked democracy. (Courtesy of Twitter)

On Jan. 6, 2021, our country saw one of its darkest tragedies. If it had happened to an individual person, it could have been classified as attempted murder. However, on that dark day, we saw not just a single person attacked, but all of us. Citizens of this country who happened to disagree with the results of the free and fair election of Joe Biden as president of the United States made a cowardly attack on our democracy and republican values. Encouraged by far-right wing conspiracy and Republican Party politicians enamored with a cult of personality, the domestic terrorists in Washington that day deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and for the most part, they have been. 

That said, one person involved with the deadly riots at the Capitol that day has avoided prosecution: former President Donald J. Trump. If anyone bears responsibility for the riots it is Trump, and he should face criminal charges immediately. 

In this country, we have a tradition of a peaceful transfer of executive power, going all the way back to George Washington himself. In pushing his big lie in 2020, claiming time and time again that the election was stolen from him, Trump made a mockery of our democracy. His words and actions on Jan. 6, 2021 amount to, at the very least, inciting a riot, and at the very worst, an attempt at a coup. For this, Trump should stand trial and face the American people for his crimes against this country. 

While some may find it ridiculous to prosecute a former Commander in Chief, this is not at all a fringe position these days. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the consummate establishment Republican, who voted with Trump near-religiously during his presidency has been one of the main voices calling for his prosecution after her involvement with the House Committee on Jan. 6.

According to Cheney, there was clear intent by Trump and his associates to stir up tensions on that day. “I think what we have seen is a massive and well-organized and well-planned effort that used multiple tools to try to overturn an election.” Cheney also says that the Jan. 6 Committee has “got a tremendous amount of testimony and documents that I think very, very clearly demonstrate the extent of the planning and the organization and the objective.” If there is sufficient evidence and an established motive, then there is no doubt that Trump should be held accountable. The powers that be in this country have a responsibility to move forward with the prosecution if that is the case. 

Additionally, cases pertaining to insurrection at the Capitol are not without precedent. People involved with the rhetoric and actions of Jan. 6, such as former Trump Administration advisor Steve Bannon, have faced charges for crimes related to the riots, with Bannon being charged with Contempt of Congress for refusing to answer to the Committee for his actions on that dark day. Also, according to USA Today, more than 750 people have been charged by federal authorities for their actions on that day. Why should the person who deceived them into thinking that their government was being stolen get away without answering for himself?

If we do not charge Trump for the crimes that he committed in connection with the attack on Jan. 6, we are making a joke not only of our criminal justice system, but our system of government. From the days of the founding fathers, we have always expected honesty from our leaders and a peaceful transition of power from administration to administration. In not pursuing every avenue possible in terms of holding Trump accountable, we leave the door open for another demagogue to tarnish and destroy our democracy, possibly for good. 

Peter McGowan, FCRH ’24, is a political science major from Rochester, N.Y.