The New York Times editorial board called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to seek an indictment of former President Trump if “sufficient evidence” exists to establish his guilt “on a serious charge.”
The board argued in a piece published Friday that, “Mr. Trump’s unprecedented assault on the integrity of American democracy requires a criminal investigation” following the Jan. 6 select committee hearings and news of the Justice Department’s search of Trump’s Palm Beach, Fla., home for classified documents.
“This board is aware that in deciding how Mr. Trump should be held accountable under the law it is necessary to consider not just whether criminal prosecution would be warranted but whether it would be wise.”
The board mentioned former President Ford’s pardon of former President Nixon for any crimes he may have committed during the Watergate scandal, with Ford justifying the decision as avoiding the “rousing” of “ugly passions” and polarization.
The board stated that prosecuting Trump could entrench support for him and “play into the conspiracy theories he has sought to stoke.” They argued it could also allow future presidents to misuse the precedent set to go after their political rivals.
But, the paper warned that doing nothing poses a much more significant risk and not holding him accountable for his actions related to the Jan. 6 insurrection would could set an “irresistible” precedent for future presidents.
“Why not attempt to stay in power by any means necessary or use the power of the office to enrich oneself or punish one’s enemies, knowing that the law does not apply to presidents in or out of office?” the board wrote.
The Times editorial was published the same day the FBI released a redacted affidavit to convince a Florida judge to grant a search warrant for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. The document stated authorities found 184 documents — some highly classified — in boxes that were initially returned to the National Archives from Mar-a-Lago earlier in the year.
The affidavit showed that the FBI believed there were additional classified documents related to national security housed at Trump’s Palm Beach residence.
The FBI conducted a search of the Palm Beach property earlier this month to search for documents.
The House select committee is investigating Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. It is currently taking a pause from its public hearings, but they are expected to resume in the fall.
The Times editorial board claimed the Jan. 6 hearings make clear that Trump must have known he was at the “center” of a fraudulent effort that led to the Capitol being attacked, and he refused to call off the mob that stormed the building for hours.
“Well-meaning intentions did not shield them from the consequences of their actions,” it states. “It would be unjust if Mr. Trump, the man who inspired them, faced no consequences.”