The Ezra Klein Show: The Case for Prosecuting Trump

New York Times Opinion New York Times Opinion 6/24/22 - Episode Page

The Jan. 6 hearings have made it clear that Donald Trump led a concerted, monthslong effort to overturn a democratic election. The extensive interviews — over 1,000 — that the House select conducted prove that Trump was told there was no evidence of election fraud, but he pressed his anti-democratic case regardless. And it appears that the hearings may be making an impact on public opinion: An ABC News/Ipsos survey released Sunday found that 58 percent of respondents believe Trump should be charged with a crime for his role in the Jan. 6 attack, up from 52 percent in April.

But after all the evidence comes to light, will he actually face legal consequences? If the answer is no, then what might future presidents — including, perhaps, Trump himself — be emboldened to do? And what would that mean for the future of the American political system?

Jamelle Bouie is a Times Opinion columnist and co-host of the podcast “Unclear and Present Danger.” Bouie brings a remarkable historical depth to his writing about American politics. His columns about Jan. 6 — and the troubling idiosyncrasies of Trump’s presidency before it — have shown how the former president’s illiberal actions have threatened the constitutional foundation of American government. So I asked him on the show to help me process the Jan. 6 hearings with an eye to America’s past, and also to its uncertain future.

We discuss why Jan. 6 may be not just an insurrection but “a kind of revolution or, at least, the very beginning of one”; how the anti-democratic nature of the American Constitution makes our system vulnerable to demagogues like Trump; the most important takeaways from the hearings so far; what could happen in 2024 if Trump is allowed to walk free; what Trump allies are already doing to gain power over elections; why refusing to prosecute Trump would itself be a “radical act”; why Republicans have grown increasingly suspicious of — and hostile to — representative democracy; why Bouie thinks prosecuting Trump would be worth the political fallout it would cause; and more.


“Trump Had a Mob. He Also Had a Plan.” by Jamelle Bouie

“America Punishes Only a Certain Kind of Rebel” by Jamelle Bouie

“Prosecute Trump? Put Yourself in Merrick Garland’s Shoes.” by Jack Goldsmith

Book recommendations:

Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men by Eric Foner

Salmon P. Chase by Walter Stahr

What It Took to Win by Michael Kazin

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You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of “The Ezra Klein Show” at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at />
“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Rollin Hu, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair; mixing and original music by Isaac Jones; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Our executive producer is Irene Noguchi. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Kristina Samulewski.

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