Once he is pulled out of the White House and unprotected by the Department of Justice’s utterly screwed up concept of absolute executive immunity, many people would love to see Donald Trump promptly indicted and convicted on charges of tax fraud. And that’s fine. After all, as people rightly note, after he had evaded prosecution for all other crimes, it was the IRS that finally got Al Capone and sent him off to Alcatraz.
But eventually Capone was released from Alcatraz and went home. Granted, that was in part because he was suffering from the long-term effects of syphilis. Still … I want more when it comes to Trump.
I want Trump to be taken to the The Hague and tried before the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity.
To be clear right off the bat, I understand that this isn’t going to happen. The United States is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC). And while the Obama administration vowed to cooperate with the court, conservatives have been so anti-ICC that under George W. Bush that they even passed a law saying the United States would help to free prisoners being held for trial by the ICC. So … that.
But that doesn’t mean some appropriate venue for Trump can’t be found. Should be found. Has to be found. Because Trump’s crimes far exceed anything that can be dealt with in a New York state court looking into how he shuffled funds among his 500+ shell companies.
Arguments might be made that all American executives might be held on such charges. After all, it’s hard to name a leader who hasn’t been involved in war, in sanctions that have cost the lives of thousands or millions, and in providing military assistance to leaders who we know to be just plain vile. Maybe they could all go to trial. And maybe they all should. But what Trump did wasn’t an act of war. It cannot hide behind some claim of national security. There was no delusion that his actions might prevent more deaths in the future. It doesn’t even reach the most base emotional appeal of exacting revenge for some past wrong.
When determining the scale of any crime, motivation plays a key role. There are good arguments to be made that someone who accidentally kills a stranger in a bar brawl is more dangerous to society than the person who sets out to kill a family member over some long-held grudge. But that’s not the way we treat it, either in court or in public opinion.
Likewise, intent is vital. Someone who kills by accident, even when that accident was the result of staggering bad judgment, is not held to either the same level of horror or judgment as those who set out to take a life intentionally. Again, it would be hard to find any executive who could stand up to the rigors of a court that held them accountable for simple mistakes. And again, that is not the case with Trump.
The person who determines to kill with cold knowledge of what they are doing, and with expectation of some personal gain, is regarded as the worst form of killer. And that is exactly what Donald Trump did when he knowingly made the decision to halt plans for national testing and contact tracing.
Trump understood that aggressive national guidelines on social distancing, the institution of a national testing program, and follow-up with a program of contact tracing could save a large number of lives and restrict the spread of COVID-19. He had examples before him of exactly how successful a program could be.
On March 13, the day that Trump rolled out what was supposed to be a nationwide set of drive-thru testing facilities sited at thousands of “big box” retailers and backed by a website created by “7,000 engineers from Google,” South Korea had just finished utterly crushing the initial outbreak in that country. They had done so using exactly the techniques that were being advocated on that day: widespread testing, detailed contact tracing, strict quarantine of infected individuals, and isolation of those in contact with the infected. It wasn’t just South Korea. Other nations, such as Taiwan, smashed their first surge of cases in the same way, and did so in spite of close proximity and regular contact with the area of China that had seen the original outbreak.
But Trump did not follow the announcement on March 13 with an actual system of either testing or case tracing. The website that he cited did not exist. The testing facilities themselves never went past a handful of poorly supplied locations mismanaged by Jared Kushner and his college buddies. That was not a failure born from ignorance or bumbling, though there was plenty of both to go around. It was an intentional decision made by Trump and his White House staff to allow COVID-19 to ravage the country because he believed it would be to his political advantage.
As Trump watched disaster unfold in New York City, he didn’t think, “What can I do to help?” He thought, “Excellent.” He thought that if he continued to pull his punches against the virus, the death toll would climb primarily in blue states. He thought the blame would fall on Democratic politicians. He thought he could hold on to power by walking over a sea of bodies.
Trump murdered Americans for personal gain, with calculated intent and full knowledge of what he was doing. Whether the United States honors the ICC or not, there is absolutely no doubt that Trump’s actions fit the definition of both genocide and crimes against humanity. He deserves a trial and punishment appropriate to scale of those crimes.
And don’t even get me started on the sedition …