In an editorial published on Friday, the New York Times editorial board demanded the criminal prosecution of former President Donald Trump. 

The board argued that despite the risks of violence that could stem from the criminal indictment of Trump, it is warranted and wise, because Trump has "brought shame" to America and "destabilized its future" with his alleged crimes.

The editorial, titled, "Donald Trump Is Not Above the Law," began with the clear declaration: "Mr. Trump’s unprecedented assault on the integrity of American democracy requires a criminal investigation." 

The editorial board agreed that, "The disturbing details of his postelection misfeasance, meticulously assembled by the Jan. 6 committee, leaves little doubt that Mr. Trump sought to subvert the Constitution and overturn the will of the American people." 


The board’s biggest reason for the prosecution was Trump's doubting of the 2020 election results, which contributed to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. "The president, defeated at the polls in 2020, tried to enlist federal law enforcement authorities, state officials and administrators of the nation’s electoral system in a furious effort to remain in power. When all else failed, he roused an armed mob that stormed the Capitol and threatened lawmakers."

Trump looking ahead

The New York Times editorial board claimed that criminally prosecuting Trump is a necessary step in saving American democracy

Citing current Justice Department investigations into Trump’s role in the "storming" of the Capitol building, the New York Times urged U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to follow through: "If Attorney General Merrick Garland and his staff conclude that there is sufficient evidence to establish Mr. Trump’s guilt on a serious charge in a court of law, then they must indict him, too."

The piece did acknowledge that prosecuting Trump could prove risky given the divided political state of the country. "This board is aware that in deciding how Mr. Trump should be held accountable under the law it is necessary to consider not just whether criminal prosecution would be warranted but whether it would be wise," it stated.

It also recalled how no former president has ever been charged with a crime and mentioned former President Gerald Ford’s warning that "such a prosecution posed grave risks of rousing ‘ugly passions’ and worsening political polarization." 

The Times admitted, "Pursuing prosecution of Mr. Trump could further entrench support for him and play into the conspiracy theories he has sought to stoke. It could inflame the bitter partisan divide, even to the point of civil unrest."

The editorial cited the anger stoked by the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago earlier this month as a sign of this potential unrest, stating, "In the hours after federal agents began a court-approved search of Mr. Trump’s residence in Palm Beach… his most fervent supporters escalated their rhetoric to the language of warfare." The board claimed it was the "the clearest outburst of violent public rhetoric since" the Jan. 6 attack.

It then praised Garland’s "deliberate, methodical and scrupulous" leadership of the DOJ investigation into Trump and claimed that "no matter how careful he is or how measured the prosecution might be, there is a real and significant risk from those who believe that any criticism of Mr. Trump justifies an extreme response."

New York Times building

The New York Times editorial board claimed that the duty of criminally prosecuting Trump outweighs the risk of violence it will generate. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo)

Despite the risk, the New York Times insisted prosecuting Trump was the necessary way forward. "Yet it is a far greater risk to do nothing when action is called for. Aside from letting Mr. Trump escape punishment, doing nothing to hold him accountable for his actions in the months leading up to Jan. 6 could set an irresistible precedent for future presidents," it said.

"America is not sustained by a set of principles; it is sustained by resolute action to defend those principles," the editorial added. 


Going even further, the board argued, "Mr. Trump’s actions as a public official, like no others since the Civil War, attacked the heart of our system of government. He used the power of his office to subvert the rule of law." It implied there is no choice but to prosecute him. "If we hesitate to call those actions and their perpetrator criminal, then we are saying he is above the law and giving license to future presidents to do whatever they want."

Further on in the piece, the editorial board claimed, "Mr. Trump’s actions have brought shame on one of the world’s oldest democracies and destabilized its future. Even justice before the law will not erase that stain. Nor will prosecuting Mr. Trump fix the structural problems that led to the greatest crisis in American democracy since the Civil War."

"But it is a necessary first step toward doing so," it concluded. 


Donald Trump wearing MAGA hat

In its Friday editorial, the New York Times editorial board wrote, "Mr. Trump’s actions as a public official, like no others since the Civil War, attacked the heart of our system of government."