Stejskal: Why I Signed a Statement Saying Trump Should Be Subject to the Rule of Law

The writer, a columnist, was an FBI agent for 31 years and retired as resident agent in charge of the Ann Arbor office in 2006. He has a degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law and is author of a recently released book, “FBI Case Files Michigan: Tales of a G-Man.”

By Greg Stejskal

I recently joined over 1,000 of my colleagues, former career employees of the Department of Justice in signing a statement. I signed on because I, like my colleagues, believe no person is above the law.

A former president of the United States should not be able shield himself from criminal investigation/prosecution by declaring his candidacy for presidency. He should be subject to the rule of law just as is everyone else. Justice should be pursued without fear or favor.

Here’s the full statement:

We are alumni of the Department of Justice and together have served under Republican and Democratic administrations at different levels of the federal system, some as career attorneys and law enforcement personnel, some as political appointees, and some as both. In those roles, we furthered the Department’s mission to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice. Those of us who were prosecutors or who otherwise worked on criminal matters applied the standards for investigating and charging criminal conduct set forth in the Justice Manual and the Principles of Federal Prosecution.

Each of us believes that, under those standards, Donald Trump’s announcement of his candidacy for president in the 2024 election should not deter the Department’s ongoing criminal investigations of his actions related to the attempt to overturn the 2020 election or his possession, as a private citizen, of classified and other government documents, including highly sensitive materials that impact our national security. The fact that the Attorney General has chosen to appoint a special counsel does not change the analysis — as the Attorney General noted, “[the special counsel] must comply with the regulations, procedures, and policies of the Department.”

Based on the facts in the public record, Mr. Trump’s actions are properly a subject of those investigations, which were underway long before he declared his candidacy. Many hundreds of ordinary Americans have already been investigated and charged for their roles in the events that culminated in a violent assault on Congress on January 6, 2021. Many others have been prosecuted over many decades for mishandling classified materials and government documents or for obstructing investigations into such conduct. There is no law, Departmental rule, or policy that precludes investigating or prosecuting a political candidate whose conduct is potentially criminal, or that counsels treating such a person differently from others accused of similar conduct.

Instead, the Department’s mission to ensure equal justice for all rests on the principle that no one — no matter how powerful — is above the law. Thus, the Principles of Federal Prosecution explicitly provide that political considerations should have no role in a prosecutor’s investigative or charging decisions. Rather, the only relevant considerations are the facts, the law, and whether a prosecution vindicates a federal interest as described in the Justice Manual. And while the Department has long observed important internal norms aimed at avoiding interference with impending elections, with a national election just concluded, those norms will not come into play for quite some time.

For these reasons, Donald Trump’s announcement of his candidacy for the presidency should have no bearing on the Department’s investigations and weighing of charges against him. Any other result would undermine our democratic system of government by politicizing law enforcement. Furthermore, applying special rules to a presidential candidate would create dangerous incentives for those seeking our highest elected office. Pursuit of the presidency must be about serving the American people, not shielding a candidate from accountability for criminal wrongdoing.

Accordingly, as Attorney General Garland has said, “[u]pholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly, without fear or favor.” The Attorney General has repeatedly pledged to apply that principle to the investigations involving Mr. Trump. That is exactly the correct approach and we urge the special counsel and the Department to continue to pursue it.

(If you are a former DOJ employee and would like to add your name to this statement, please complete this formProtect Democracy will update this list with new signatories until December 2nd.)

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