Democratic pollster Doug Schoen and former Rep. John LeBoutillier, an anti-Trump New York Republican, just floated a full-blown “universal plea agreement” in a weekend op-ed in the Messenger: Federal and state prosecutors suspend their criminal cases against Trump, while he “admits his guilt and accepts personal responsibility for his actions in each case,” withdraws from the campaign, and “agrees never to pursue any public office during the rest of his life.”
There are, of course, many more details and potential sticking points. Judges in each case would have to accept the plea deal and agree not to sentence Trump to prison or home confinement; who knows if all of them would. Caroline Mala Corbin, a constitutional law professor at the University of Miami, says such a deal would “seem to reward really bad behavior. . . . You can avoid the consequences that ordinary people have to face for the same crimes by just agreeing to forgo public office.” Furthermore, she told me in an email, “It is hard to imagine Trump ever admitting to wrongdoing” or voluntarily giving up his fame, fortune, and power.
LeBoutillier told me he’s known Trump since the early 1980s and “he will say anything to get out of trouble,” including if necessary an admission that “I’m guilty.” He’d later deny it and attack the prosecutors and the system, the former congressman predicted, but legally, that would be irrelevant. If he is facing jail, LeBoutillier said, “he will do it.”
Would this be unprecedented? Almost certainly. But then, the whole situation is unprecedented.
Would such a plea deal be legal or constitutional? Unclear, but in a case where the stakes for our constitutional system are already existential, it is worth exploring. And if it gets traction, the lawyers can fight it out.
FYI — I just think that such a plea deal would lead to even worse conspiracy theories about Trumpers and do more to jeopardize democracy. I just want Trump defeated at the polls in a decisive fashion.
— Walter Shapiro (@MrWalterShapiro) July 26, 2023