Opinion | The ‘Agnew Choice’ might be a method out for Trump — and America

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Wind, rain and hail pummeled the road of mourners that stretched on for a day and an evening within the first act of Richard M. Nixon’s funeral in 1994. It was “a scene worthy of ‘King Lear,’” in line with the New York Occasions.

Lear wasn’t an ideal analogy, as a result of there’s no ghost in “Lear.” The previous president’s funeral had one: Spiro Agnew, the vp Nixon plucked from relative obscurity as a pugnacious governor of Maryland to be his operating mate.

Agnew vanished from the general public stage in October 1973, one of the crucial tumultuous months in U.S. historical past, marked by the “Saturday Night time Bloodbath” of Watergate infamy, the Yom Kippur Warfare of Arabs in opposition to Israel and Agnew’s resignation beneath the shadow of prison expenses.

I’ve been remembering Agnew’s look that grey day in California — the primary and final time I laid eyes on him in individual. Simply because the ghosts of Shakespeare bear classes for the residing, so the specter of Agnew may need one thing to show us now, as Justice Division prosecutors resolve what to do about former president Donald Trump.

After an investigation into Agnew’s tenure as governor revealed a sordid historical past of bribery, fraud and corruption, federal prosecutors provided an uncommon “plea deal.” In change for his quick resignation, a plea of nolo contendere to a single federal tax violation and a effective of $10,000, Agnew was allowed to cross into personal life.

Trump has little to concern from the “prison referrals” lodged with the Justice Division by the Home Jan. 6 committee this week. However the earlier appointment of particular counsel Jack Smith to supervise two federal investigations isn’t political theater. As with each particular counsel, Smith has the time, price range and workers with which to pursue Trump, his household and workers. Such investigations can final a few years. Add in Trump-focused investigations by the legal professional normal of New York, the Manhattan district legal professional and the Fulton County district legal professional in Atlanta, and the authorized internet wherein Trump is ensnared is huge.

Trump informed me in a radio interview in September that “I can’t think about being indicted,” including “I’ve completed nothing unsuitable.” Perhaps not in most jurisdictions. However what a couple of jury trial in D.C., the epicenter of Trump-hatred? The previous president needs to be anxious.

I requested my Publish colleague Ruth Marcus — one of many nation’s shrewdest observers of authorized controversies since her commencement from Harvard Legislation Faculty — whether or not Trump’s troubles, and the nation’s deep division over them, may be resolved by a type of “Agnew Choice.” An finish to the authorized warfare in change for a retirement from political life. Ruth shortly, and accurately for my part, responded that Trump would by no means enter a plea — although in her eyes it will be good for the nation.

However I’m not speaking a couple of plea, as a result of I don’t consider there are information within the public’s view supporting an inexpensive principle in regards to the mandatory “parts” displaying Trump has dedicated any crime. Interval. Solely those that have by no means labored in a White Home can doubt that papers usually get blended up within the chaos of a transition, and Trump’s energy to declassify when he was president was limitless. As for the New York and Georgia issues, they appear like very weak authorized tea. The concept Trump supposed a riot and occupation of the Capitol? I don’t consider it. And I doubt any affordable jury instructed on affordable doubt and the authorized that means of intent would both. However ought to Trump take the danger that I’m unsuitable?

Trump’s fervent supporters proceed to consider he’s a noble Jean Valjean of American politics being pursued by a mob of Javerts. However that gained’t cease a prosecutor who believes they discovered the elusive factor of “intent.” If Smith — or the opposite prosecutors — wish to indict Trump, an indictment will comply with. And political and civic chaos would break unfastened. Trump didn’t threaten violence in our interview, however he did predict anger, and the nation has greater than sufficient anger already. Is there a deal that would spare the nation one other collision of the extremes — and even disaster? Nobody outdoors of the far proper and much left, the one-percenters who thrive on battle, desires the white-hot anger on all sides that will greet the spectacle of Trump on trial.

Trump thrives on battles. However this one has the potential to be ruinously costly for him, his household and his workers. He has no White Home counsel’s offense to defend him; solely personal attorneys anticipating to be paid prematurely. His Agnew Choice would save him untold tens of millions, plus the danger of being convicted of against the law in a hostile jurisdiction. Trump must promise to comply with the trail of different trendy former presidents: a memoir, a library and museum, some extremely paid appearances, however no extra campaigns, for himself or others.

May he reside with out rallies? Maybe, if it meant no extra courtrooms. His Agnew Choice wouldn’t contain suspended sentences, fines or admissions of guilt. Only a laying-down-of-arms on all sides and a dedication from the previous president to retire from fight. A settlement.

Trump won’t ever be an Agnew, as a result of Trump scored the best upset in U.S. political historical past and left his mark on politics, the Supreme Court docket, Center East diplomacy and extra. However like Agnew, he may be prepared to maneuver on — not into obscurity, however right into a life freed from prosecutors.

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