Opinion | James Comey: “The rule of law is finally here for Donald Trump”

James B. Comey is a former FBI director and a senior fellow at the Kettering Foundation.

I’ve heard that America needs to be careful in how it handles prosecutors and legal decisions regarding Donald Trump to avoid inciting violence. We should be concerned about the uproar his many accusations may cause to his millions of supporters. We have been warned that the issue of President Trump’s disqualification under the Fourteenth Amendment should be approached with great care, and that it could lead to violent mobs attacking us. And just recently, we’ve been told that if he doesn’t get full immunity, there’s going to be an uproar.

I doubt it. We always have to worry about political violence. This is especially true when violent speech and actions are accepted and even celebrated by political parties and their leaders. The FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Division is right to be concerned, and hundreds of employees in the bureau and partner agencies wake up every morning to find potential threats and try to put them down. That’s the job they have to do.

But I think we have a bigger problem threat The violence is more important than the actual violence we do. The Trumpist threat seems to be everywhere these days. Civil servants at all levels regularly receive such information by mail, email, social media or, oddly enough, even voicemail. There are also attempts at “swatting,” where whistleblowers report non-existent crimes in order to prompt a law enforcement response, as well as other forms of harassment. Of course, these things need to be taken seriously, as there is always the possibility that a confused person will act on the threat. But I know from professional and unfortunately personal experience that people have a tendency to intimidate. Because they want to live rent-free inside your head, and even if they don’t get close to you, they will affect your life. This is a difficult thing to ask of frightened poll workers, school board members, and judges, but they have found ways to take prudent precautions without allowing the blackmailer to accomplish his goal of distorting his life. There must be. Don’t let them own you.

As a nation, we need to strike the same balance by not allowing our imaginations the power to threaten our national life. We must not let the idea of ​​Trumpian violence become some kind of villain to scare us away from our commitment to the rule of law.

There is a natural human tendency to exaggerate the threat after a frightening incident, especially one that occurs following a security lapse. The 9/11 attacks caused an unbearable human toll, but they were the product of our own failures of preparation and imagination, combined with the incredible luck of a group of murderers who caused an unimaginable carnage. That was the result. But then we assumed al-Qaeda was an existential threat to the United States, and we made all sorts of mistakes in that assessment at home and abroad.

January 6, 2021 was a terrible day, but at its core it was a security failure. For reasons we still don’t know, our government failed to adequately assess and prepare for a threat that was being broadcast in advance at the speed of a walk in the daylight. Despite the heroic actions of the understaffed police, the mob managed to occupy a building on a hill that was easier to defend as it was not properly secured. Yes, there were sophisticated actors in the crowd that day, especially the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, who operated in organized teams with seditious intent. But in the overwhelming main sense, the perpetrators of January 6 were the idiots who bought into Trump’s lies. They must be held accountable to the last man, but they must not be monsters beneath the floor of our nation.

That responsibility should comfort us. The Justice Department’s indictment of more than 1,200 defendants on January 6 sent a shock wave of deterrence to those who might literally want to take time off from work to fight for Trump. They now know it will cost them dearly, and despite his generous offer of forgiveness, most of them have no interest in paying that price. They are not jihadis trying to blow themselves up for a reward in paradise. Most of these people are people with real jobs who are feeling the feelings of discontent caused by the unethical demagogues who are once again running for president. People who aren’t yet felons may vote for him, but they won’t even consider dying for him or going to jail. They weren’t there when he was arraigned in New York, Georgia, Florida and Washington DC, they won’t come. Sometimes being stupid isn’t stupid at all.

Any threat to the rule of law must be justified. That’s why public servants at all levels across the country are struggling despite a barrage of personal abuse. In this country, terrorists, gangs, and drug organizations have long been held accountable even though they pose a grave risk of violence to those who run our legal system. Fortunately, that is not what we are facing today. Trump and his army are not coming for us. The rule of law finally comes to him.

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