by Lauren Hill ‘22
When Joe Biden takes office on January 20, his administration will face unprecedented challenges. Not only will it have to grapple with a pandemic and a struggling economy, but the new appointees in the Department of Justice may have to decide whether or not Former President Donald Trump should face criminal charges for inciting insurrection.
“If you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country any more,” Trump said to a large group of his loyal supporters on January 6. After the speech, the pro-Trump mob violently stormed into the Capitol building resulting in five deaths and multiple arrest. Many people have argued that Trump and his allies, such as Rudy Giuliani, should be charged for federal crimes such as incitement of insurrection or seditious conspiracy. For months before the riots, Trump made hundreds of false claims of voter fraud. His consistent lies about the election being “stolen” emboldened his supporters to storm the Capitol in an attempt to stop the confirmation of the election results. Trump told the crowd just before they marched on the Capitol that they never should believe that the election was fair: “We will not be intimidated into accepting the hoaxes and the lies that we’ve been forced to believe over the past several weeks.” Although President Trump did not explicitly state that his supporters should attack the Capitol, his consistent lies incited the violence of the mob. Even while the attack was occuring, Trump was mostly silent and did not ask his supporters to leave.
Although Trump was protected by the policy that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted for crimes committed while in office, the Justice Department can and should investigate Trump once his term ends for his role in the events that occurred on January 6.. However, there would be many obstacles if they decide to prosecute Trump, such as the argument that the speech he gave before the riot is protected by the First Amendment. Regardless of the likelihood of criminal charges, Trump may well face some serious criminal consequences for the role he played in deadly riots on Capitol Hill.