fb-pixelGuardrails for the presidency, after the demolition derby of Trump - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

Guardrails for the presidency, after the demolition derby of Trump

Globe staff photo illustration; Doug Mills/New York Times/NYT

The Globe editorial series “Future-proofing the presidency” (June 8-13) was a tour de force, detailing the systematic assault former president Donald Trump and his enablers, including former attorney general William Barr and the Department of Justice, unleashed for four years against the Constitution and the rule of law, an assault that undermined and corrupted the core principles, norms, and values of our democracy.

While the Big Lie about election fraud and the violent insurrection on Jan. 6 are the most blatant examples, the range and scope of actions highlighted in the editorial series create a record that must never be forgotten. They are a reminder of the fragility of our democratic institutions. And, as you noted Sunday (“The case for prosecuting Trump”), Trump has yet to be held accountable.


Unfortunately, in outlining what occurred and the potential remedies, the series failed to note the stunning silence of most of the leaders and members of the legal profession, who have stood on the sidelines since the systematic assault was first identified, and remain on the sidelines to this day. Despite the clear record of abuses of power and violations of oaths of office, too few bar associations, disciplinary bodies, law school deans, or law firm leaders have actively entered the fray to protect and defend the rule of law, the Constitution, and the norms and values of democracy, let alone critique or hold accountable lawyers and elected officials who participated in the corruption of the independence of the Justice Department and the efforts to nullify the results of the 2020 election.

The renewal by the legal profession of its professional and nonpartisan obligations as guardians of justice and liberty should be a cornerstone of any remedy intended to strengthen democracy’s capacity to hold the executive branch accountable, including, if warranted on the facts and the law, criminal prosecution.


Scott Harshbarger

East Orleans

The writer is the former attorney general of Massachusetts, cofounder of Lawyers Defending American Democracy, and the former CEO of Common Cause National.

We need to know if candidates are a security risk before they run

I’d like to add one more suggestion for future-proofing the presidency: A candidate must apply for, and qualify for, the highest level of security clearance.

This requirement alone probably would have kept Donald Trump out of the White House. This was not lost on our intelligence agencies, who were quite concerned that a guy like this could get his hands on the nation’s most sensitive information, to be used for who-knows-what purpose.

Once in power, Trump bestowed high-level clearances on his family members and to such accomplices as Steve Bannon, the propagandist who was charged with bilking “Build the Wall” donors out of millions of dollars, and to retired lieutenant general Michael Flynn, noted recently for agreeing that a Myanmar-style coup “should happen here.”

We’ll probably never know the extent to which our national security was breached by the Trump administration, but now we know that we can’t take a presidential nominee’s integrity for granted.

Michael Maffie

Putney, Vt.

Follow the (Russian) money

“Who owns the president?” is an interesting summary of Trump’s indebtedness. However, it ought to have mentioned the large amount Russia has “given” Trump, dating back to around 1990. As described in “Putin’s People” by Catherine Belton, the KGB and oligarchs, seeking a safe haven for their cash after the collapse of the Soviet Union, found Trump to be a ready recipient of much-needed funds. Apparently, these actions also saved the Trump Organization from bankruptcy.


It seems clear that Russian interests continue to control many of Trump’s businesses and have done so since well before his presidential escapade.

Bruce Murray


Bring back the Fairness Doctrine

I join many of your readers in appreciating your editorial series on how to avoid tyranny in the United States. However, your ideas have limited usefulness under present circumstances. You are recommending things that the Senate will not vote for unless the Democrats discard the filibuster and Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona vote with their party. This outcome seems unlikely. How do you expect these new laws to come into being?

You have omitted another reform that the Biden administration has neglected so far: to require the Federal Communications Commission to reinstate and expand the reach of the Fairness Doctrine, in which news media had to present alternative sides to debatable statements.

Die-hard Trump voters have no reason to doubt the wildly inaccurate stories run by Fox News and other news outlets. Whether by cable or broadcast, once an outlet has that great a reach, it has to operate responsibly or the United States is lost. People find it too difficult to apply skepticism to stories they hear daily, without contradiction. Americans born since the Reagan administration have never known anything different than this situation.


Megan Brook


Prosecution would only give Trump a platform to spout forth

I read your series with interest and approval. The former president should be pursued for the many financial conflicts. However, I disagree with the final conclusion. To prosecute the former president for the events of Jan. 6 would only give him and his allies a public platform to spout forth daily as the process would wind on for years.

The remedy was impeachment, which was swift and uncomplicated but was lacking the integrity of large numbers of elected officials who failed to vote for a conviction.

The old adage applies: Let sleeping dogs lie.

Edward D. McCarthy


Go get him, Justice Department

Thank you so much for writing and publishing this series, and for making it available to nonsubscribers. You’ve highlighted the key points in the post-Trump world. It’s time to mop up that hot mess, and the suggestions in each of the six editorials in the series are well-founded.

I am on board with the Department of Justice prosecuting Trump, his colluders, and the larcenous spawn. It’s heartbreaking that Congress failed twice to convict this twice-impeached president.

My friends and I are scared that if the Justice Department fails to prosecute, our democratic republic is heading for the toilet. I love my country, and I hate seeing what’s happening to it because of this horrible person.

Your efforts with your editorial series are greatly appreciated.

Elizabeth Hazel

Toledo, Ohio

Voters need a real alternative to two-party contests

It was a waste of paper and ink to devote nearly a week of editorials to rehash the Trump administration in an effort to support the notion that the presidency is in danger of being hijacked by some crazed despot in the future. Trump got into politics because his ego needed attention and he knew he could toy with the system and get some. He never thought he would get elected, and the shock on his and his family’s faces on election night 2016 offered clear evidence.


Trump’s election demonstrates the failure of our two-party system, populated and run by entrenched lifetime politicians. In 2016, nobody was really allowed to challenge Hillary Clinton, and the Republicans had a weak herd of candidates that Trump stomped on, much to his and everyone else’s surprise. In the eyes of the electorate, he became the lesser of two poor candidates, particularly to a large number of independents who I believe would have welcomed a third alternative.

Future-proofing the presidency is easy; establish a third, “Independent” party and introduce a real vote of confidence. Then the voters can finally be in charge.

David Mahoney


‘A republic, if you can keep it’ — got that, Trumplandia?

Your editorial series is both a noble and desperately needed defense of a democracy under attack from within. It seems to be the Globe’s operationalized response to the oft-quoted admonition, credited to Ben Franklin, that what we have is a republic, if we can keep it. It also serves to remind us what history has shown us: Your institutions won’t save you from the attempts at an autocratic assault on a democracy. The editorial is also a flashing red light that recalls the quote, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

While Democrats and liberals will be a receptive audience to your series, I fear that, to some extent, it may be preaching to the choir. It will not find its way onto the summer reading list of those who most need to read it: those living in Trumpland.

I am even less hopeful that it might alter the Trump-ingratiating behavior of GOP representatives and senators, even if they do read it. They seem to be more focused on booking a flight to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring.

Jim Cain