Due Process for All

Dr. Malcolm Cross

Donald Trump is facing many investigations into personal and business matters.  Among the most troublesome actions are defamation suits filed against him by women whom he accused of lying when they publicly accused him of sexual improprieties.  At the same time, one of his most loyal supporters, Florida Republican congressman Matt Gaetz , is being investigated for sex trafficking.  No matter how vile the charges against Trump or Gaetz may be, each is entitled to due process and the presumption of innocence unless liability or guilt is proven.  But their accusers are also entitled to due process.  They have the right to have their charges examined fairly and impartially, with no hint of partisan politics affecting whatever decisions are ultimately reached.

I last discussed due process a few weeks when looking at the Andrew Cuomo case.  I argued that affording him due process would strengthen the probability of due process for all, while depriving him of due process would endanger everyone.

As more and more charges of misconduct, sexual and otherwise, are levied against Cuomo, he himself is becoming more demanding of due process as well.  This is ironic, to say the least, because he has historically taken the view that Republicans are not entitled to due process, at least if accused by women of sexual impropriety.  During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, for example, he echoed the standard claptrap of Democrats in general and especially of Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, and Joe Biden, that one should simply believe the female accusers.  The fact that none of Kavanaugh’s accusers could substantiate her claims, and that most have now claimed to have been mistaken or otherwise unable to remember what, if anything, Kavanaugh did to anyone, has not yet been acknowledged by any Democrat in authority.  To the contrary, efforts are still being made to find evidence with which Kavanaugh can be impeached and removed, despite the paucity of evidence against him.

But Republicans are likewise guilty of hypocrisy.  They’ve historically given far more credence to women accusing Democrats, such as Bill Clinton or Ted Kennedy, of wrongdoing, and far less credence to Donald Trump’s female accusers.  They’ve remained silent as Trump has sought to discredit his accusers by saying they’re too dishonest—and sometimes too ugly—to be believed. 

The courts have ruled that now that Trump is out of office he can be sued and possibly be held liable for his actions, depending on the outcome of the cases against him.  He is no longer shielded from legal proceedings by virtue of being President of the United States.  

But if Trump is no longer above the law, he is not beneath the law either.  His accusers should have every right to present their cases against him.  But he must be afforded every right to rebut them too.  To the extent that the truth can emerge from adversarial legal proceedings free from partisan politics, it must be compelled to do so.

And that is the only way to discover the truth, if possible, in the Matt Gaetz case as well.  The crimes of which he is suspected—giving money to a 17-year old girl and transporting her across state lines for sex—are undeniably sick, vile, and disgusting.  Yet did he really do what he’s being investigated for?  It’s too early to say.  All that can be said at this stage is that everyone, not least of all Gaetz, is entitled to due process, that Gaetz is further entitled to the presumption of innocence unless or until guilt is proven, and that guilt can be proven only by a fair and impartial investigation, free of partisan politics. 

How the Cuomo, Trump, and Gaetz cases will play out remains to be seen.  No doubt their resolution will be of great importance.  But more important will be the way issues of guilt, innocence, and liability are resolved.  The more fairness accorded to these politicians and their accusers, the more certain that should the day come when we must either accuse others of wrongdoing or defend ourselves against the accusations of wrongdoing levied by others, we ourselves will get fairness from a system more accustomed to providing justice for all.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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