Ford's Pardon of Nixon and Leads Americans to Doubt Accountability, DemocracyRoundup
tags: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, pardons, elite impunity
Garrett M. Graff is a journalist and the author, most recently, of Watergate: A New History.
The release on Thursday of parts of a report from a grand jury in Georgia that investigated election interference by Donald Trump and his allies offers the most recent evidence of his growing legal exposure.
At least three teams of prosecutors — two state, one federal — are considering charges against him. In Georgia, the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, is reviewing the grand jury report and said recently that a decision on whether to bring charges was “imminent.”
At the Justice Department, the special counsel Jack Smith is examining Mr. Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection and attempts to overturn the 2020 election, as well as his handling and retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. And in New York, Manhattan’s district attorney, Alvin Bragg, is reported to be presenting evidence to a grand jury about Mr. Trump’s role in paying hush money to the pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign.
All three teams may face what the special prosecutor Leon Jaworski encountered after Watergate: Who determines the fate of a former president if he is credibly accused of a crime?
Gerald Ford settled the issue for Jaworski, with his pardon of Richard Nixon. We have been living with the consequences of that decision ever since — and it has taken shape as an instinctual move to shy from holding presidents to account. It has also made our democracy look weaker than that of other peer countries. The United States appears uncomfortable with applying the most basic of legal principles: No man is above the law.
Now we may be on the verge of a president’s being held accountable for abuses against the country. Such accountability is long overdue. As we have been exposed to the fragility of democracy, we should also warn future presidents and others that our democracy has tools to defend itself from those who seek to do it harm — and it is not afraid to use them.
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