Two top lawyers say it is now time for President Donald Trump to negotiate a plea deal and resign from office in order to minimize his legal liability.
Both former U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal and former chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter reached the same conclusion yesterday after more evidence was disclosed making clear that Donald Trump was guilty of committing at least one felony — and probably several more.
Katyal wrote a lengthy piece for The New York Times that explained in detail the legal problems facing Donald Trump. He made clear that there were only two choices for prosecutors now: either indict him and charge him with the crimes, or turn over all of their evidence to the U.S. House of Representatives. And he also said that the Constitution would require the House to proceed with impeachment proceedings if prosecutors decline to indict the president.
Ultimately, Katyal said, all of the evidence about Trump’s crimes will come out, either in a federal court or in a House impeachment trial.
Then he wrote that Trump’s lawyers would have to explain the gravity of the legal jeopardy he is facing, saying:
“Trump may therefore conclude, as Spiro Agnew did before him, the he has one card left to play: resign and plea to avoid jail time.”
The situation is more urgent because Mueller’s recent filings seem to indicate that Vice President Mike Pence could be indicted soon.
Painter, who served in the George W. Bush administration also said yesterday that President Trump’s defense lawyers need to negotiate a plea agreement ASAP. He pointed out that Trump’s crimes were more serious — and would result in larger penalties — than Cohen’s, so the president should resign to minimize his exposure. He said:
“Publicly the Republicans, or many of them, are supporting the president. This is a bad situation for the president. Cohen, the president’s lawyer, got three years in prison for crimes that he committed on behalf of the president, who was his client. If the lawyer gets three years, how much time should the client get?”
“That doesn’t even include whatever Bob Mueller comes up with respect to Russia and obstruction of justice and the crimes that were committed there. Donald Trump is in serious trouble. His lawyers ought to be telling him to negotiate a plea deal.”
Then Painter added:
“It’s time to negotiate a comprehensive plea deal for Donald Trump. Include federal and state charges, reduced charges in return for his resignation.”
“That’s where the Republicans in Congress ought to be driving this — toward a comprehensive plea deal for Donald Trump and his family members.”
“Get him out of White House, have him resign, plead guilty to lower charges and let’s move on as a country.”
And then as a final note the top ethics lawyer clarified the situation that Donald Trump is in right now:
“It’s quite clear his goose is cooked here,” Painter said.
If Donald Trump were to resign it would save the country much conflict and trauma. He has already severely damaged the United States during his presidency, and the sooner he leaves office the better for everyone. It is widely assumed that Mueller has much more evidence of additional Trump crimes, so things will only get worse — legally and politically — for Trump from here.
Many people would prefer to see Trump go on trial — along with his criminal children — and get what he deserves through the legal system. But that may result in a “scorched earth” approach where Trump continues to do as much damage as he can before leaving the Oval Office.
Richard Painter and Neal Katyal are right: the best thing for Donald Trump, and for the country, is for him to resign as soon as he possibly can.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.