A president of the United States has never been imprisoned. Not a living president or the previous president, but I believe we can all agree that there are those who ought to have.
Donald Trump has the potential to change that.
Trump will go down in history as the first president to be impeached twice, the first president to refuse to accept defeat in an election, the first president to have no prior political or military experience, and one of only five presidents to be elected without a popular vote.
These distinctions alone create a unique prospective like no other.
But it’s possible that Trump might now face prison time in New York for suspected financial crimes, as well as his plans to rig the 2020 election in Georgia and his statement to the rioters on Jan. 6.
Given his history of dubious business transactions and ripping off taxpayers, as well as his nefarious activities in Russia and Ukraine, something utterly unexpected may happen during the present investigations, landing him in prison.
This would make US history as the first president to pay for his crimes behind bars.
Richard Nixon’s crimes were the closest in modern history to flirt with the scenario, but Gerald Ford felt he was saving the country, and possibly saving himself from culpability on his own crimes, by pardoning Nixon.
The Prison Per Se
Robert Hood, ex warden of Colorado’s Supermax prison, had dealt with many high profile prisoners, and wrote an article that explains the ins and outs of how they deal with this issue.
Without doubt, he notes, the first move is that high profile prisoners are kept separate from the main prison population.
The execution of separation creates a safer environment, both for the high profile prisoner, and the population as a whole.
Leadership, for some, is a natural course of their personality. Those that lead outside in society, tend to participate similarly in prison.
Controlling their ability to lead others maintains the power dimensions that develops between the prison staff and the inmates.
Also, there are many convicts who might desire to injure this alleged perpetrator for a variety of reasons, including gaining publicity, political benefit, or taking matters into their own hands.
Because of the potential here, there are procedural guidelines that are followed upon the arrival of a profile prisoner.
Professionalism and objectivity should be emphasized with all staff
Review of policies and procedures should be completed prior to his arrival
Staff should be advised of any court orders or special conditions of confinement
Enhanced media attention will occur and should be addressed in a timely manner
Effective lines of communications are needed
Internal and external threats should be taken seriously
The inmate should be observed for potential suicidal tendencies
Staff should watch for aggressive and violent behavior
In general, high-profile offenders shouldn’t be treated in a different manner — don’t allow inequality between inmates
Watch for radicalization of other inmates, as some may praise the high-profile offender
Secret Service Responsibilities
How the Secret Service will deal with their duties to a former president is a subject the agency has never had to address before, but one that investigators in New York state and Georgia may have to address shortly as they look into Donald Trump’s activities for possible criminal prosecution.
The Secret Service officials have, so far, declined to comment on this situation, other than, “In order to maintain operational security, the U.S. Secret Service does not comment on the means and methods used to conduct the agency’s protective operations.”
One longtime Trump confidant believed that he would not renounce his protection, predicting that Trump would instead ask for stronger security behind prison than he already has.
“He would probably double up,” the adviser told Huffington Post on condition of anonymity. “It would be an interesting situation.”
The statute governing the protection of former presidents does not speak to the possibility of one of them winding up behind bars, saying only that the Secret Service is “to protect” them for the duration of their lifetimes.
Since the agency was assigned the task of protecting presidents in 1902, and former presidents in 1965, none has found himself under criminal investigation ― until Trump.
This responsibility may concern both pretrial incarceration or post-conviction imprisonment, as he may be deemed a flight risk, considering he owns his own jet, and has a history of riling up his followers to commit violence.
“There is no precedent for this, so no one knows for certain the answer, and arguably President Biden gets final say over the extent of any USSS protection for his predecessor,” said Bradley Moss, a lawyer with national security expertise. “That said, it is likely former President Trump would maintain protection even if convicted and incarcerated due to his special status.”
Robinson, on the other hand, believes that special protection for a convicted person, even an ex-president, defies logic. He stated, “You’re not going to put Secret Service agents in prison to protect a guy who’s already being protected by the prison.”
Speculative National View
There are no obvious or helpful analogies in American history. We can only venture this subject with a lot of analytical guesses.
A criminal prosecution, it seems evident, could turn him into a martyr and strengthen his supporters’ feelings of persecution, emboldening them to do anything they want. They’ve already crossed lines we’ve never seen before.
Consider that a qualified person running for president while jailed is not illegal or unconstitutional, Trump might stage a political comeback from behind bars, being “restored” to what his supporters see as his rightful status either by lawful election or (much more probable) because Republicans’ recent wave of voting suppression legislation have created a situation in which he can’t lose.
If Trump is placed on trial, it will be a spectacle unlike anything else in American history.
If you thought the country is more divided than ever in history, the vitriol and violence has the potential to grow, especially since we are dealing with devotees that border on obsession.
Trump has become their god, and many would be happy to martyr themselves to make their point; they already have.
Any outcome — acquittal, conviction, or mistrial — will be viewed as a huge success by his fans.
Whatever occurs, the trial will serve as a catalyst for a far-right, anti-democratic movement in this nation that has never been before.