Prosecutors are closer than ever to potentially charging former President Donald Trump with a crime. But indicting an ex-commander in chief might say more about America than it does about Trump. No former president has ever been formally charged before. And while prosecuting an ex-president would send the message that no one is above the law, it also comes with risks—including further destabilizing an already divided country, and potentially normalizing the use of prosecutorial powers against defeated political opponents.
President Joe Biden has expressed unease about the long-term consequences of such a move, while also stressing he won’t interfere with his Department of Justice’s decision-making on Trump. “I think it is a very, very unusual thing, and probably not very, how can I say it, good for democracy, to be talking about prosecuting former presidents,” Biden said shortly before entering the White House. This week, VICE News’ video series The Couch Report breaks down what Trump’s legal drama means for the rest of the country, by exploring the history of presidential entanglements with the law.