If They Can Come for Trump, They Can Come for Everyone

Which is good.

Andy Biggs stands before a microphone wearing a "Trump: Make America Great Again" hat.
Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona (Brian Snyder / Reuters)

Sometimes, a profound truth comes from the least-expected place.

Take Representative Andy Biggs, a Republican of Arizona, who’s not typically a good source for reliable information or sound views about democracy. Biggs claimed that there was massive fraud in the 2020 presidential election, supported legal efforts to overturn the election, and blamed antifa for the insurrection on January 6, 2021.

But Biggs got one big thing right in a tweet this weekend, responding to former President Donald Trump’s prediction that he would be arrested today.

“If they can come for Trump, they will come for you,” Biggs wrote.

He’s right. And that’s exactly the point.

An indictment of the former president, followed by orderly due process, would show that no one is immune to following the law simply because he is famous, wealthy, politically powerful, willing to threaten the justice system, or possessed of intemperate and powerful followers such as Representative Andy Biggs. Biggs has accidentally stumbled on the secret of rule of law, in which no one is above accountability.

Though Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has not revealed any charges, any Trump indictment is expected to involve an allegation that the former president attempted to hide a hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actor who alleges a sexual encounter with Trump, in violation of election laws. Trump denies the relationship and any lawbreaking.

Notice that Biggs isn’t claiming that Trump is obviously innocent of any possible charges against him. In fact, he has implicitly acknowledged the payment, likening it to former President Bill Clinton paying a woman who alleged an affair. (The question, again, is whether this violated election laws, though as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis notes, no one wants to be caught paying hush money to a porn star.)

Biggs’s complaint appears to be the very fact of an investigation and potential charge. His implication is that prosecutors are going after Trump merely because they don’t like him or because it’s politically expedient. “This type of stuff only occurs in third world authoritarian nations,” he added. Yet as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump outlines, plenty of democracies have seen high-ranking elected officials arrested. Of course, everyone would prefer that elected officials be incorruptible and spotless, but because they are human like every other citizen, the fact that they are subject to justice is an indication that the rule of law remains in place.

This would not be the case if they were subject to show trials, deprived of the same protections as other citizens, or excluded from due process. But no serious person with power is suggesting that Trump should not be entitled to a trial, a jury of his peers if he chooses, and a vigorous defense. Like any other citizen, he would have to be booked and fingerprinted if he is indicted; unlike any other citizen, he’ll then return to Secret Service protection.

As the possibility of a former president being indicted has been normalized from far-fetched to all but inevitable, many observers have emphasized the importance of moving carefully in such a politically sensitive case, both to avoid inflaming tensions in the public and to avoid setting a precedent in which a new government tries to lock up the leaders of its predecessors.

Prosecutors should be careful—but at the same time, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t act. Whether Trump committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt is a question for a jury or judge, but the evidence that he may have committed several is blatant and public enough that allowing him to escape scrutiny would represent a genuine blow to the legitimacy of the justice system. If they can come for you, you’d better hope they can come for the former president too.