Trump’s arrest is another reminder that presidents don’t have political immunity in a democracy
In the past couple weeks since Trump’s arrest, I’ve seen some reactions from his conservative supporters along these lines: “If they can go after Trump, they can also go after you”—which is the whole point of the rule of law.
Donald Trump was indicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records. He and his defenders claim the indictment is a “witch hunt” and is evidence that the justice system has become politicized.
Politicized justice is a real problem. In many countries, the courts are not independent and there are few checks and balances protecting their integrity. In such cases, courts become little more than rubber stamps for executive rule or, on the other end of the spectrum, for the tyranny of the majority.
Judicial independence is a cornerstone of the rule of law for a free society. Without it, newly empowered parties have a habit of prosecuting, imprisoning, and even executing former presidents and prime ministers on flimsy charges as political revenge. Officeholders will seek to stay in power by any means necessary to escape prosecution. Political life deteriorates into a soap opera of charismatic criminals rotating between prison and the presidency.
But that should not lead us to make the opposite mistake and grant all former presidents and officeholders immunity from any legal prosecution. Officeholders are human, like the rest of us, and just as prone to sin, corruption, and criminality. As Christians, we should know this better than anyone.
In fact, it is precisely because of their access to power and wealth that officeholders are likely to face even greater temptation and have more opportunity to commit crime. Unless we think they are somehow immune to such temptation, …