The growing use of prosecutions as a political weapon is a grave threat to American democracy and the rule of law.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “probe” of President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) is a prime example of a “weaponized prosecution.” Mueller started out probing legitimate allegations of Russian collusion. Now his team is digging into everything, including the President’s sex life.
The goal of Mueller’s probe is apparently to get Trump. That is why the investigation did not end when no evidence of a Russian conspiracy was detected. Instead, the special counsel is seeking dirt to smear Trump with. The special counsel’s powers and resources are being used for purely political ends.
This Weaponized Prosecution is worse than Mueller
A third-rate New York politician is taking weaponized prosecutions to their logical conclusion. Zephyr Teachout; that is apparently her name, is running for New York State Attorney General on the Get Trump ticket.
The only issue Teachout is running on is suing and prosecuting Trump, Politico reported. Teachout apparently has no other agenda or goals simply getting Trump.
There are obviously many serious problems facing the Empire State, yet Teachout does not discuss them. She simply lays out her plan to get Trump.
Teachout’s promise should scare us to death because she can make it a reality. The New York Attorney General’s office has the resources to bring massive lawsuits and criminal investigations. Worse, it has the authority to make them stick because Trump is a citizen of the Empire State.
Disturbingly, Teachout is far from alone. State Representative Sean Shaw (D-Hillsborough); the front runner for the Democratic nomination for Florida’s Attorney General, is also campaigning on the “Get Trump ticket.”
Weaponized Prosecutions are Un-American and Undemocratic
All Americans should be scared because such politicized and weaponized prosecutions are inherently undemocratic.
Weaponized prosecutions are one of the main weapons tyrants; like Russian President Vladimir Putin use to silence their critics. For example, Putin is trying to have billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky deported from Switzerland to Russia, The Moscow Times reported. Khodorkovsky fled to Switzerland after an earlier weaponized prosecution.
Putin reportedly plans to indict Khodorkovsky; who is described as the Kremlin’s top critic in exile, on questionable murder charges. Khodorkovsky spent 10 years in prison on politically motivated tax evasion and embezzlement charges for opposing Putin.
Hypocritically, Democrats that profess to abhor Putin are adopting his tactics. Frighteningly, they are ignoring the horrendous history of weaponized prosecutions.
How Weaponized Prosecutions can destroy a Government
History teaches us that unchecked weaponized prosecutions will destroy democracy and the rule of law.
The worst example of weaponized prosecution occurred during the French Revolution. A rogue politician named Maximilien Robespierre started prosecuting everybody in an attempt to make himself dictator. Robespierre’s victims ranged from King Louis XVI to members of his own Jacobin Club (political party).
Eventually, the Jacobins got sick of Robespierre. The would-be dictator was arrested, prosecuted, and executed by guillotine in front of a cheering mob.
Robespierre’s “Reign of Terror” gravely weakened the French Republic. A few years later, Napoleon easily extinguished French democracy and set up an absolute military dictatorship.
Roman history provides a more horrendous example of the destructive power of weaponized prosecutions. Out of control weaponized prosecutions triggered the crisis that destroyed the Roman Republic.
By 49 B.C. weaponized prosecutions had become the primary tool by which Roman politicians destroyed their enemies. A likely victim was the governor of Gaul, Gaius Julius Caesar.
Caesar feared that he would be prosecuted and executed after his term of office ended. Instead of submitting, Caesar marched his powerful army to Rome and overthrew the government. Caesar’s action triggered the Civil War that destroyed Rome’s elected government.
Weaponized Prosecution is the New Normal
Republican leaders even wisely resisted public pressure to prosecute Confederate leaders after the Civil War. Frighteningly, weaponized prosecution has become the new normal in the last 30 years.
The ball started rolling with the Iran Contra Affair in the late 1980s when Democrats tried to destroy officials for implementing President Ronald Reagan’s (R-California) foreign policy. Things got worse with the Monica Lewinsky Affair in the late 1990s; when Republicans tried to impeach President William J. Clinton (D-Arkansas), for having sex with an intern.
Will Weaponized Prosecution Destroy Law Enforcement?
Today weaponized prosecution is the first recourse of politicians on both sides of the aisle. When the other side wins an election, prosecution is the inevitable response.
Any allegation of questionable behavior against any figure can lead to an investigation. Under that standard almost any politician in any office can be prosecuted at any time.
Any such investigation will lead to a prosecution of somebody; even for totally unrelated charges, as the Mueller probe demonstrates. These unrelated prosecutions occur, because the prosecutors have to justify their efforts to save face.
Law enforcement and prosecutorial resources are wasted on meaningless political theater. Real criminals get away unscathed because resources are diverted for political prosecutions.
Worst of all, courts and law enforcement are turned into instruments of oppression. Criminal prosecution becomes meaningless because the public has reason to doubt any charge.
Changing parties will not stop the prosecutions. Trump is the target because he is president now. If a Democrat replaces Trump, he or she will quickly face prosecution by a Republican attorney general or special counsel.
Will Weaponized Prosecution Destroy America?
If weaponized prosecutions are taken to their logical conclusion. Many people will withdraw from the political process out of fear. As in Russia, citizens will end up fleeing the country to escape weaponized prosecution.
Rome exemplifies the worst case scenario in which citizens have to take up arms to defend themselves from weaponized prosecutions. Caesar was not a professional revolutionary or radical; instead he was a scion of the Roman establishment.
Julius Caesar was a highly experienced professional politician from a good family. Yet he felt compelled to revolt against the government to protect himself from weaponized prosecution.
America needs to end weaponized prosecutions now before they destroy our democracy and our legal system. We must depoliticize prosecutions and put politics back where it belongs on the campaign trail.
This commentary first appeared at Market Mad House the place to find political insanity.