PBS Hosts Obama-Biden Lawyer to Warn Trump Will Prosecute Opponents (and Biden Hasn’t?)

Thursday evening’s PBS NewsHour warned of Trump persecuting his political opponents in a second term, and they pretended that no one is presently prosecuting his political opponents in their first term. Anchor Amna Nawaz dragged out the “without evidence” swagger: 

Anchor Amna Nawaz: For months, former President Donald Trump and his allies have claimed, without evidence, that the Biden administration has weaponized the Department of Justice to pursue prosecutions against him for purely political reasons.

But, as Laura Barron-Lopez explains, the presumptive Republican nominee has also suggested that a second Trump term could see an escalation of those prosecutions.

Laura Barron-Lopez, White House reporter: Amna, Donald Trump first called for his political enemies to be locked up during his 2016 campaign. Now he’s forecasting plans to enact such threats if he returns to the White House.

PBS won’t bother to pursue the line of argument that a lead prosecutor in the Trump “hush money” case, Matthew Colangelo, had a high-ranking position in the Biden Justice Department before joining Bragg’s prosecution of Trump.

Barron-Lopez promised a discussion about “the rule of law and how a future President Trump could upend it.” She brought on a familiar guest: Ryan Goodman had previously appeared on PBS in February to neutralize all the scandals and suspicions emanating from Biden and son Hunter. Now he’s shifted to throwing out dire warnings about a second Trump term.

Barron-Lopez identified Goodman as “a professor at NYU Law who previously served as special counsel at the Department of Defense.” But for whom? Once again PBS left off the fact that Goodman served during the Obama-Biden administration, which presumably means he has a rooting interest in clearing Biden’s name. 

After playing a clip of Donald Trump on Hannity, out came the “no evidence” line again: 

Barron-Lopez: There’s been no evidence of President Biden weaponizing the Justice Department, and some of these prosecutions, we should note, are state prosecutions, not federal. What are the implications of Trump’s comments to FOX News?

Ryan Goodman: I think there are very serious implications, because the president of the United States is the commander in chief, but is also the top executive for the Justice Department, and has enormous power. So this is not just a kind of an idle threat. And we know from the first Trump administration that he, in fact, did try to make good in the threats by, for example, asking his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to investigate and prosecute Hillary Clinton.  So I think it’s a very real concern for politicizing and weaponizing the Justice Department.

Conversation turned to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. the man behind the partisan prosecution of former President Trump, with guest Goodman ludicrously suggesting Bragg had no choice but to indict Trump. (“The way I look at the Alvin Bragg case is, as a district attorney, what choice did he have?“) This is odd, since Bragg’s predecessor in office, Cyrus Vance Jr., had reviewed the evidence and passed on the case.

Laura Barron-Lopez: There’s also been a lot of threats against judges, jurors, law enforcement. From your perspective, as someone who served in government, what kind of damage has this already done to the judicial system? And what’s at stake for the U.S. justice system in this election?

Is it not hypocrisy for flags to whine about Republicans damaging the “judicial system,” considering their constantly attempts to denigrate the integrity of the U.S. Supreme Court with silly stories about upside-down flags?

This segment was brought to you in part by BNSF Railway.

A transcript is available, click “Expand.”

PBS NewsHour

6/6/24

7:21:28 p.m. (ET)

Amna Nawaz: For months, former President Donald Trump and his allies have claimed, without evidence, that the Biden administration has weaponized the Department of Justice to pursue prosecutions against him for purely political reasons.

But, as Laura Barron-Lopez explains, the presumptive Republican nominee has also suggested that a second Trump term could see an escalation of those prosecutions.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Amna, Donald Trump first called for his political enemies to be locked up during his 2016 campaign. Now he’s forecasting plans to enact such threats if he returns to the White House.

Last night, FOX News host Sean Hannity asked Mr. Trump to respond to criticism that he would seek retribution against his opponents.

Donald Trump, Former President of the United States (R) and Current U.S. Presidential Candidate: It has to stop, because, otherwise, we’re not going to have a country.

Look, when this election is over, based on what they have done, I would have every right to go after them. And it’s easy, because it’s Joe Biden, and you see all the criminality, all of the money that’s going into the family and him.

Laura Barron-Lopez: To discuss the rule of law and how a future President Trump could upend it, I’m joined by Ryan Goodman, a professor at NYU law who previously served as special counsel at the Department of Defense.

Ryan, thank you so much for joining us.

There’s been no evidence of President Biden weaponizing the Justice Department, and some of these prosecutions, we should note, are state prosecutions, not federal. What are the implications of Trump’s comments to FOX News?

Ryan Goodman, Former Department of Defense Special Counsel: I think there are very serious implications, because the president of the United States is the commander in chief, but is also the top executive for the Justice Department, and has enormous power.

So this is not just a kind of an idle threat. And we know from the first Trump administration that he, in fact, did try to make good in the threats by, for example, asking his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to investigate and prosecute Hillary Clinton. So I think it’s a very real concern for politicizing and weaponizing the Justice Department.

Laura Barron-Lopez: And when he asked Geoff Sessions to do that, Sessions refused, according to Robert Mueller’s report.

So what’s to stop President Trump from doing that again, potentially successfully, if he has a second term?

Ryan Goodman: At some level, there might be very little to stop President Trump from doing that again.

We only found out, as the public, from the Mueller report years later what he had tried to do with Jeff Sessions. Even at the time, Jeff Sessions was recused from the very investigation itself with respect to Hillary Clinton. So Trump was saying, please unrecuse yourself and do this.

So there was an additional safeguard that time around. And President Trump, according to The New York Times, was also directing Attorney General Barr to go after the investigation of the investigators, which ended up with nothing. It was actually an embarrassment, no other word for it, for special counsel John Durham.

So I think that’s when he had a more pliant attorney general. And we only discovered that by a New York Times 2023 article about how Trump had driven Attorney General Barr and John Durham to do that, years later. So I do think that the forces that stood up against him in the past are not going to be the same, when he has learned much better how to utilize the levers of power.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Right. He could install loyalists across all of these agencies, not just the Justice Department.

I also want to ask you about comments from Stephen Miller, former senior adviser to then-President Trump. And he’s still close to Trump. And he said on FOX after the New York verdict: “Is every Republican DA starting every investigation they need to right now? Every facet of Republican Party politics and power has to be used right now to go toe to toe with Marxism and beat these communists,” using common slurs that Republicans do now for Democrats there.

Other Trump allies have called for Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg to be jailed. What are they essentially calling for here across the board?

Ryan Goodman: So it’s quite extraordinary.

Mr. Miller himself, I imagine, will have a senior position in a second Trump administration if there is one. They’re calling for state-level attorney generals and local-level district attorneys to just indict people on the basis of politics.

It’s not as though Mr. Miller is actually citing criminality or actual crimes being committed. So it’s just really extraordinary what he’s saying rhetorically, but I don’t think it’s pure rhetoric. And the comparison with what Alvin Bragg has done in New York, I think, is stark.

The way I look at the Alvin Bragg case is, as a district attorney, what choice did he have? He was actually handed basically a case that the Southern District of New York said Michael Cohen was guilty of having acted on behalf of Individual 1, but they hadn’t charged Individual 1. And in the plea agreement, Michael Cohen pleads to falsifying business records as part of the Trump Organization.

So that’s a very different crime base that Alvin Bragg was going off on. And what Stephen Miller is saying is, there’s hardly a word for it other than, like, retribution and political retribution. But this is really where he’s at. I don’t think there’s any way to otherwise interpret his words.

Laura Barron-Lopez: There’s also been a lot of threats against judges, jurors, law enforcement.

From your perspective, as someone who served in government, what kind of damage has this already done to the judicial system? And what’s at stake for the U.S. justice system in this election?

Ryan Goodman: So I think that our country is unfortunately entering a very dangerous period in which there are heightened threats of political violence, and there have been skyrocketing threats against election officials, for example, as well.

And it’s just extraordinary to see how a former president of the United States has been placed under multiple gag orders in order to protect the judiciary, jurors, and witnesses. And I think he’s giving a license to other people to try to do the same. So, in fact, in New York, he stopped doing it. But then surrogates seemed to be picking up the exact messaging that he had instead left to them to do.

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