Why we need accountability after Mar-a-Lago

by Nikhil Dewitt (’24) | October 7, 2022

Art by Marisea Fisher (’24)

In the midst of the chaotic transition of power between Donald Trump and Joe Biden after the deadly insurrection on January 6, many Americans looked to Biden’s inauguration as a return to normalcy. However, few paid much attention to Trump as he boarded his plane to return to his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.

Over a year later, it was announced that FBI agents had searched Mar-a-Lago for documents that may have been taken illegally from the White House. Eighteen of these documents were given a top-secret designation, while one set was given an especially classified SCI (sensitive compartmented information) designation.

While the Justice Department looks into the case, Trump continues to deny any wrongdoing. Meanwhile, judges–including Trump-appointed U.S. District Court judge Aileen Cannon–continue to undermine the rule of law by allowing Trump to delay the process through various means.

Despite these hurdles, it is essential that the Justice Department stay firm and seek justice. If a former president who did something wrong is not held accountable, it sets a dangerous precedent for future leaders; it is important to show that those who refuse to comply with the law hold responsibility for the consequences.

Another reason it is essential to seek justice is that it improves our country’s image abroad. If the U.S. fails to hold members of its own government accountable, it appears like we don’t care about preserving democratic norms. Foreign perceptions of the United States were increasingly negative through Trump’s presidency, and it would boost confidence throughout our country if we could show that we will hold accountable those who refuse to carry out their duties. With the recent rise in authoritarianism across the globe, it is essential that the U.S. proves itself as a functioning democracy where leaders who refuse to obey the law pay the price.

Some may argue that pursuing justice risks massive protests from Trump supporters that could potentially endanger our country. After the January 6 insurrection, many may not want to risk deadly riots throughout the country. However, these threats only further emphasize the importance of pursuing justice. With a rise in anti-democratic sentiment throughout the country, it is imperative to show that the rule of law will not be affected by public opinion or mass protests. In addition, refusing to hold people accountable only further bolsters the credibility and popularity of those who insist on clinging onto the belief that they are above the law. In fact, politicians and officials who do the wrong thing but get off scot-free can experience a surge in popularity from followers who admire their ability to “stand up” to the law.

Accountability is often not the easiest route, but it is essential to hold accountable those who refuse to respect the law, especially if they have a significant influence on the country. Let’s show the world that we can live up to the ideals of our founding fathers and defend the rule of law.

Categories: Opinions

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