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Debate: Prosecute Trump

Should the Department of Justice prosecute Trump for his role in the storming of the US Capitol?

On January 6 2021 a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S Capitol seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election result. Rioters overran police and broke through windows chanting ‘stop the steal’ while threatening Vice President Mike Pence with violence. The moment sent shockwaves through America as people tried to understand how this could be happening in the world’s most powerful democracy. 

There is now growing pressure on the Department of Justice to prosecute Trump for his role in the incident after a set of public hearings revealed damning evidence of his actions. For some, the decision to prosecute is easy: no one is above the law, including Trump, and a failure to hold the former president to account would embolden him and his supporters to launch further attacks on American institutions.

But others argue that while Trump’s conduct after the November 2020 election was reprehensible, not every wrongdoing, even a highly consequential one, is a crime. Stretching the evidence to pursue a dubious prosecution would further discredit the justice system in the eyes of many Americans, likely fail, and perhaps boost Trump politically by feeding into his narrative of victimhood.

Who’s right and who’s wrong?


For the motion

David Blight

Sterling Professor of American History at Yale University

David Blight is the Sterling Professor of American History at Yale University and the Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. He has won several awards, including the Bancroft Prize and Frederick Douglass Prize for Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, and the Pulitzer Prize and Lincoln Prize for his latest book Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. He is also a frequent book reviewer for The New York TimesWashington Post Book World, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, and many other publications.
Against the motion

Rich Lowry

Editor-in-chief of National Review

Editor-in-chief of National Review, an American conservative news and opinion magazine. He writes a regular column for Politico, and often appears on public affairs programmes including Meet the Press. He is the author of three books including The Case for Nationalism: How It Made Us Powerful, United, and Free.

Philippa Thomas

Journalist and academic, who has anchored daily live news shows on World TV and the BBC News Channel

Journalist and academic, known for her high-profile broadcasting career with BBC News. Most recently, Philippa anchored daily live news shows on World TV and the BBC News Channel. She spent many years as a foreign correspondent based in Washington DC and before that was a political correspondent at Westminster. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Thomas has chaired the independent Trust in News conference, focusing on information warfare in Ukraine and beyond, and later in May she will be on stage at the Oslo Freedom Forum interviewing Amnesty International Secretary-general Agnes Callamard about the ways the world has responded – and failed to respond – to the crisis in Ukraine.