By Alec Pruchnicki
Wait! Don’t roll yours eyes and think of this as another rabid anti-Trump rant. Even as a legal layman, I think there are possible arguments for answering this question in the affirmative. There are plenty of people in The Village with more legal training than me and more internet skills, so my rough arguments can be made more precise if at all valid.
Many people say the president should not be above the law. Here are three laws he shouldn’t be immune from: criminal negligence, reckless endangerment, and involuntary manslaughter (sometimes described as murder or homicide in the 3rd degree). The exact definition and severity of each of these varies from state to state so the definitions I will use are approximations. But they are clear enough to be applied to our situation.
Criminal negligence occurs when a person ignores an obvious risk and acts significantly differently from those of an ordinary person under similar circumstances. When Trump ignored information on epidemics handed to him by members of Obama’s staff, or by doctors and scientists in his own administration along with those from other countries, and refused to take any action but stated that COVID would just disappear or had to be handled by the governors, this was criminal negligence. There must be cases somewhere in the country when parents negligently ignored medical advice and it led to the death of their children, and resulted in charges and convictions for criminal negligence. Ignoring advice that contributed to the death of hundreds of thousands of people is also criminal negligence.
Reckless endangerment occurs when a person commits acts that create a substantial risk of physical injury to others, even if that was not the intention of the act. For Trump, this would include not wearing facemasks or distancing when with others, mocking mask-wearers, giving out false information on unproven cures, holding political rallies where facemasks were not encouraged, if not actually discouraged, and pushing to open work places and schools in locations where such openings would be life threatening. Again, there must be cases somewhere when a person with an illness was treated with a reckless unproven or irrational treatment and death resulted.
If a person causes the death of another, even inadvertently, as a result of a crime, like criminal negligence or reckless endangerment, that person has committed involuntary manslaughter. Trump’s reckless and negligent behavior has inadvertently contributed to the death of about 200,000 Americans, with no end in sight.
Besides upholding the principle that no man is above the law, there is another reason for charging Trump with these crimess described in WestView’s recent article on impeachment (“Impeach Him Again, Immediately.” WVN, August 2020) Trump has raised the stakes for this election with unprecedented actions, like unidentified troops in American cities, suppressing peaceful demonstrations for the sake of a photo-op, implying the election might be fraudulent, criticizing mail ballots (like the ones he always uses), and even subverting the post-office. And who knows what his enablers in the Republican Senate, the Bill Barr “Justice” department, or his friends in Moscow are thinking up? These crimes are often prosecuted on the state level. So, Leticia James and Cy Vance, are you listening? No person, not even the president, is above the law is a nice theory. Let’s put it into practice.