From the White House to prison? The clemency that Joe Biden could grant

In a country of high political tension, instability, great polarization and institutional weakness, the inflammatory words of a Machiavellian leader who is lost, could generate chaos and ungovernability, in an incipient transition that could last months.


Could Donald Trump be the Bernstein of the 21st century, and again get away with it?

Ossip Samoilovich Bernstein, a powerful Ukrainian-born Jewish lawyer who made part of his fortune playing chess; he was arrested by the Bolshevik secret service in 1918; the execution order had already been issued, the future of the prominent lawyer was disturbing.

As members of the Secret Service enlisted to end the lawyer’s life, a superior officer recognized him on the execution list, and immediately realized that the name corresponded to who would have been the best chess player of the last decade. The supervisor told Bernstein that if he played a game with him and beat him, he would pardon him. The officer kept his promise, Berstein won the game, thus saving his life and achieving freedom.

While Trump is nowhere near the prominent lawyer of the day, his future hinges on highly calculated moves on a chessboard.


The still president of the United States has survived two divorces, twenty-six allegations of sexual misconduct, six bankruptcies, and an estimated 4,000 lawsuits.

The Department of Justice has argued, on more than one occasion, that, according to the Constitution, incumbent presidents cannot be prosecuted.

In the specific case of the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, who would have requested Trump’s tax returns for the last 8 fiscal years; There was an even laughable response from the president’s lawyers, who insisted that the petition was unconstitutional because the Founding Fathers believed that a sitting president could not be subject to a criminal process, because it could lead to the “distraction of the first agent ”of their functions.

In September of this year, Michael Cohen, who would have been part of Donald Trump’s team of lawyers and was sentenced to 3 years in prison for tax evasion and violation of the regulation of electoral campaigns in 2018; He said in an interview in September 2020 that, based on the information he knows, Donald Trump will likely become the first president in history to go straight from the White House to prison.

The lawyer suggested that the great fear of the US president is that his tax returns are published and there is evidence of tax evasion and fraud.


Experts maintain that the president could appeal for a pardon, thereby exposing his presumed guilt in the crimes he is charged with.

In fact, President Trump pointed out, on June 4 of this year, that he has every right to pardon himself. It is undoubtedly a question that several lawyers are questioning, since it has not been proven on previous occasions, although experts suggest that legally it would have the authority to do so.

However, 44 years ago, the acting Assistant Attorney General, Mary Lawton, when questioned about the possibility that Nixon pardoned himself, assured that according to the fundamental law that stipulates: – “… that no one can be judge in his own case… ”, the then president could not appeal to the pardon. Richard Nixon resigned 4 days later; and his vice president, Gerald Ford, assumed the presidency and granted his predecessor a full judicial pardon.

The latter suggests a second move that could be very timely and helpful, given the legal situation facing the White House tenant. Trump could appeal to the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution, in which case, he could resign before January 20, 2021. Mike Pence would take over the presidency temporarily and grant him clemency.

However, there are crimes that are charged and open investigation folders, which are not federal in nature. The presidential pardon only applies in federal cases, so the case of the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance and other similar cases that are in progress, would be exempt from pardon.

Joe Biden in August assured that, if he becomes president, he will not promote or stop legal proceedings against Donald Trump, saying that the decision would leave it in the hands of the Justice Department prosecutors.

The pardon granted by Vice President Mike Pence could be the most viable solution for the Republican, since it does not seem that Joe Biden is going to influence the legal processes that the president of the United States faces today.

However, in the case of non-federal crimes, what could be the investigation carried out by the Manhattan District Attorney for tax evasion and fraud; Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman, who investigated the crimes of former President Richard Nixon, said that both Trump and Ivanka could go to jail. Tax evasion is a serious crime that could lead to a sentence of up to 5 years in prison.

The case traces us back to Richard Nixon’s former vice president, Spiro Agnew, who resigned in 1973 and allowed his tax returns to be released, in exchange for 3 years of unsupervised probation and a $ 10,000 fine.

It is difficult to think that Trump did not calculate the consequences as Agnew did.

The departure of the president could involve his resignation, the subsequent pardon of Mike Pence, the negotiation with the Democrats and finally the negotiation with the District Courts of the crimes that are not considered federal, with which, if we go back to the case of Spiro Agnew, after all the crimes against the president, 3 years of unsupervised probation and a fine of $ 10,000 does not sound bad.

Probably, once again, he will get away with it and evade justice just as Bernstein, the great chess master, managed to cheat death in 1918, before the firing squad.