Honoré de Balzac said, "Behind every great fortune lies a great crime." Apparently there are multiple great crimes behind the Trump fortune, stretching all the way back to his stealing most of his initial wealth from other members of his family, as his niece Mary Trump is alleging in a lawsuit.
But the crimes of Trump we should all concern ourselves with are his crimes against our nation and democracy itself.
Holding Trump and William Barr to account is not a matter of political payback. This is about the future of our republic.
Not only is there little evidence that anybody, including the Justice Department, is interested in pursuing these crimes, but Republicans in state after state are going out of their way to facilitate future political criminal activity.
America has always had a weird attitude about prosecuting the rich and powerful.
Think about it: outside of Jeffrey Epstein, can you name one billionaire or multi-hundred-millionaire who's been seriously prosecuted for criminal activity? And Epstein, after initially being convicted some years ago, was treated in a hands-off fashion and allowed to continue his crimes, with the support of some very consequential politicians and Florida prosecutors, at least until he was shut up for good.
While there is a certain immunity available to very wealthy people all over the world, both because they can afford the very best legal help and they have politicians in debt to them, other countries still manage to prosecute their rich and powerful citizens.
France's President Sarkozy was recently convicted of bribery, and Israel's Netanyahu is under indictment for crimes that could land him in prison for years. Neither of those democracies are trembling under the weight of this.
Donald Trump brought criminals and fascists like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn into the heart of our political system, and grifters and con artists like Betsy DeVoss, Elaine Chao and Wilbur Ross into the White House itself.
And Trump also brought in the extraordinarily corrupt lawyer, Bill Barr, who had previously corrupted the office of attorney general for George HW Bush, too.
When Barr was attorney general in December, 1992, after Bush lost the election and Bill Clinton was about to assume power, Barr helped Bush engineer a massive cover-up of the Iran Contra Treason when Reagan and Bush committed American weapons to the Iranians if they would hold the hostages long enough to damage the presidency of Jimmy Carter to help Reagan win the 1980 election.
America knew that both Reagan and Bush were up to their necks in Iran-Contra, and Democrats had been talking about treason, impeachment or worse. The independent counsel had already obtained one conviction, three guilty pleas, and two other individuals were lined up for prosecution. And Walsh was closing in fast on Bush himself.
So, when Bush shut the investigation down by pardoning not only Weinberger, but also Abrams, North and the others involved in the crime, destroying Walsh's ability to prosecute anybody, the New York Times ran the headline all the way across four of the six columns on the front page, screaming in all-caps: BUSH PARDONS 6 IN IRAN AFFAIR, ABORTING A WEINBERGER TRIAL; PROSECUTOR ASSAILS 'COVER-UP.'
Bill Barr had struck. More recently, working for Trump this time, Barr oversaw spying on both reporters and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee who were looking into Trump's ties to Russia.
But Trump was also committing crimes all by himself, too. The Mueller report lays out 10 specific examples of Donald Trump committing the felony crime of obstruction of justice, and dozens of other examples of his criminality in the White House are well-known.
Whether it's taking bribes from foreign governments, passing top-secret intelligence along to the Russians or attempting to corrupt legitimate elections, there can be no doubt that Donald Trump was a criminal before he came into the White House and continued his criminal activity throughout the four years of his presidency.
America has more prisoners than any other country in the world, both in actual numbers and per capita. The rationale that "tough on crime" legislators have used for generations to justify harsh penalties is that if people are not held to account for their crimes, and if society doesn't see the example of people paying for their crimes, criminals will be emboldened and society will suffer under even greater levels of crime.
Setting aside how that actually plays out in our criminal justice system, there's a lot of truth to the idea that letting criminals get away with their crimes only emboldens them and those who seek to emulate them.
The Boston Globe is now out with a series of articles about the crimes of Donald Trump, and recently explicitly called for him to be prosecuted specifically for the crimes he committed while in the White House.
Their justification for calling for the criminal prosecution of Donald Trump follows the same lines: if he gets away with it, what might another morally impaired future president - say, someone like Ted Cruz or Rick Scott – be able to pull off using Trump's skating by as a precedent?
The Globe is absolutely right.
Jack Kennedy was famous for smuggling women into the White House, and Republicans will never let you forget it. When they finally caught Bill Clinton red-handed, they not only tried to prosecute him but turned him into only the second president in the history of our country to be impeached by the House of Representatives.
Accountability is a big thing for Republicans, it seems, even when it comes to lying about getting a BJ, but only when its Democrats being held to account.
Prosecuting Trump, Barr, and the other corrupt members of his administration and people around him is not a matter of political payback. It has very little to do with Donald Trump or the Republican party, in fact: it's about the future of our republic.
They must be held accountable.
President Biden and Congress must appoint an independent, special prosecutor (or equivalent) and set up an office within the Justice Department to look into crimes committed in the White House during the previous four years.
If we fail to do this soon, it will become practically and politically impossible. And if America fails to hold its rich and powerful to account, particularly the man who corrupted the highest office in the land, we will have truly gone down the same path as an increasingly corrupted ancient Rome, leading straight to the death of our republic, too.
This article was first published on The Hartmann Report