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If A Grand Jury Takes Down Trump, Thank the Founders

August 10, 2017

According to reports, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III impaneled a grand jury weeks ago as part of the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections and potential connections with the Trump-Pence campaign.

Such grand jury proceedings are secret, helping explain the delayed revelation of this critical news development. Entirely apart from the substance of these proceedings, however, the existence of a grand jury in this case should not come as a surprise. As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said this past weekend, this is “a normal step taken by a careful prosecutor who is doing a thorough investigation.”

Grand juries are older than America’s Constitution, and their existence is a right that Americans revere to this day as a bulwark between the people and their government in Washington (as well as many state governments). Guaranteed under the Fifth Amendment, these assemblies of usually 23 everyday people protect their fellow citizens against abuses of power.

As we have seen time and again, grand juries serve as check by “We the People” against malfeasance and self-dealing by our nation’s elected officials – up to and including the President of the United States.

As one of the architects of our Constitution, James Wilson, said, “The grand jury are a great channel of communication, between those who make and administer the laws, and those for whom the laws are made and administered…. [T]hey may expose to publick inspection, or to publick punishment, publick bad men, and publick bad measures."

There have been suggestions that President Trump has been looking for unsavory ways to get out from under the Mueller investigation, although Trump attorney Jay Sekulow recently answered one of these suggestions saying, “The president is not thinking about firing Bob Mueller.”

We should probably take Sekulow’s denial with a grain of salt, given his checkered record of accurately accounting for Trump’s actions related to the Russia investigation.

If President Trump is, in fact, thinking about firing Special Counsel Mueller, he should think about it very hard. Trump should consider America’s founding wisdom before firing Mueller or in any way attempting to undermine or circumvent the grand jury’s work, lest Trump immediately reveal himself – for all to see – as one of Wilson’s “publick bad men.”

If Trump has nothing to hide, then – contrary to the claims of Newt Gingrich – he has nothing to fear from his fellow Americans serving on the Mueller grand jury. If Trump or his team have committed no crime nor any other “publick bad measures,” then no indictment or report critical of him will issue.

By the same token, however, if Trump or his team are found likely to have committed a crime or crimes, or other bad acts, then the grand jury will issue one or more indictments or a critical report.

In that case, the American people will have the Founding Fathers to thank for vesting regular citizens in our system of government with a strong and resilient mechanism to hold even the most powerful person in our country to account to our laws and our Constitution.