"Nobody is above the law," says sign above

Opponents of former President Donald Trump gather outside of the Manhattan Criminal Court during his arraignment on April 4, 2023 in New York City.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Public Citizen Makes the Case Against 'Both-Sidesing' the Trump Indictment

"While Trump and his allies continue their bluster, the media should focus on the facts of the indictment and the unprecedented obstruction it outlines."

A top official at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen on Tuesday issued a resounding repudiation of Republicans who draw false equivalencies between the alleged misdeeds of former President Donald Trump—who faces scores of federal and state criminal charges—and those of President Joe Biden and his son.

Earlier this month, Trump was charged with 37 federal felony counts related to his alleged possession and sharing of classified government documents after he left office. Additionally, the Manhattan district attorney's office in April charged Trump with 34 felony counts involving alleged hush money payments during the 2016 election cycle to cover up sex scandals.

Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis has signaled that Trump could also be charged for alleged "criminal interference in the administration of Georgia's 2020 general election" during the state superior court's upcoming term, which runs from July 11 through the end of August.

"Key Republicans and former Trump administration officials who have looked at the facts admit that these charges are credible, serious, and necessary."

While numerous Republicans have condemned Trump's actions, the former president and many of his supporters have called his prosecution a "witch hunt" while claiming he's a victim of a legal double standard. Trump's backers point to the classified documents improperly held by Mike Pence, his former vice president and 2024 GOP presidential rival, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, and Biden—who is currently under investigation by a special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Some right-wing observers also contend that the plea deal announced Tuesday under which Hunter Biden, the president's son who holds no government office, will avoid prosecution—an outcome common to about 97% of federal criminal cases—proves a legal double-standard favoring Democrats.

However, legal and other experts reject such comparisons, pointing to Trump's refusal to hand over documents in his possession and his showing of the secret files to at least several people, an act that critics say could jeopardize national security.

"There is no both-sidesing this indictment. Key Republicans and former Trump administration officials who have looked at the facts admit that these charges are credible, serious, and necessary," Public Citizen executive vice president Lisa Gilbert said in a statement.

Gilbert cites Trump administration officials including Attorney General William Barr—who called the Espionage Act charges against the former president "solid" and the evidence in the case "very, very damning"—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to underscore how even former members of Trump's inner circle acknowledge the validity and gravity of the federal indictment.

Former Defense Secretary Mike Esper said "clearly, it was unauthorized, illegal, and dangerous" for Trump to allegedly take classified national security documents to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and show them to aides, a writer, and at least one supporter.

Esper compared Trump's alleged actions to those of Jack Teixeira, a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman arrested in April for allegedly leaking sensitive documents online.

According to Gilbert:

While Trump and his allies continue their bluster, the media should focus on the facts of the indictment and the unprecedented obstruction it outlines: Trump repeatedly blocked federal law enforcement officials who were attempting to retrieve approximately 300 classified documents that endanger our national security; and he directed his staff and lawyers to hide evidence, lie, and obstruct the FBI and grand jury in an attempt to keep them from recovering these documents—which contained highly classified national security information.

"As the overwhelmingly bipartisan response to the seriousness of this indictment shows, Americans are united in the belief that no one is above the law, not even a former president of the United States," Gilbert added.

Other observers have also decried comparisons of Trump and Biden's alleged misdeeds.

Equating Trump's alleged crimes with Democrats' purported misdeeds may hold water with Trump's staunchest supporters, "but it's false," Vox politics reporter Nicole Narea recently wrote.

"None of those figures ignored a subpoena to turn over classified material concerning highly sensitive matters of national security and then sought to conceal it from federal officials and their own attorneys, as is alleged of Trump," she argued. "And in fact, history suggests that if Trump complied with that request, as some of his peers did, prosecutors may not have pressed charges."

"The case against Trump is not so much about the fact that he retained documents he had no right to keep—but that he allegedly did so knowingly and brazenly defying the federal government while putting U.S. interests at risk," Narea added. "That puts Trump in a class of his own."

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