Our Founders envisioned a Nation where the rule of law ensures justice for everyone before our legal system. Equal enforcement of our country’s laws, regardless of a citizen’s political affiliation or social status, was the primary hallmark of this system, which, although imperfect, has set a shining example for the rest of the world to follow. Unfortunately, our legal system has been transformed into one in which politics does matter, and personal connections can be the difference between being given a free pass or receiving a guilty verdict.
In recent days, the American people received an unmistakable message that the application of justice in our country is no longer even-handed or consistent. By announcing the indictment of former President Donald J. Trump for mishandling classified documents and obstructing justice, the Department of Justice concluded an investigation that has been shrouded in secrecy and likely wasted millions of taxpayer dollars. The court proceedings will probably take months to play out, but the broader takeaway is already clear: The system of justice that our Founders established – one that is guided by the rule of law and equal treatment of all citizens – no longer exists for everyone, just the chosen ones. (RELATED: ALAN DERSHOWITZ: The DOJ’s Indictment Against Trump Is Strong, But Will It Be Enough To Bring Him Down?)
This case is a result of federal law officials aggressively pursuing a very questionable case against a high-profile political figure with the goal of an indictment, while showing how other notable figures, in more egregious circumstances, have been treated much more leniently and not charged at all. With that in mind, it is hard to view this case as anything other than a trend of one political party consistently weaponizing the federal government to attack those in the other political party.
Two significant examples of our two-tiered justice system involve how law enforcement approached other similar cases involving classified documents. Recall that in 2016, it was discovered that former Secretary of State and then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her team had concocted a scheme that sent official government and classified emails from secured systems in the State Department to an unsecured server in her home. When confronted with this clear violation of government record storage and handling of classified material, the Clinton team deleted 33,000 emails and destroyed mobile devices with hammers and software designed to wipe the electronic devices. Clinton was not charged with mishandling government documents or intentionally destroying evidence. President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence have also been found to have kept classified documents, and in the case of Biden, over the course of many years including when he was a U.S. Senator. Yet, the former Vice President is not being charged, and one would not expect the President to face charges either. Keep in mind that a President, not a U.S. Senator and not a Vice President, can declassify any document without congressional approval. He alone can take that action – so how is a former President, who claims to have taken these steps being charged, but not the former U.S. Senator now President Biden?
Is this how our justice system is supposed to work in a democracy? The answer should be no. Our legal system was designed to apply the law equally to all who live in our great Nation.
Overall, this indictment raises more questions than answers. Who is making decisions about who to charge and who not to charge? Why should one investigation proceed with vigor while another is essentially swept under the rug? These should be questions that are guided by consistent application of the law, not by considerations of how to please special interest groups or the White House. Ultimately, our legal system is transformed from one steered by the rule of law to one focused on political outcomes. (RELATED: RASHEED WALTERS: The Case For Donald Trump)
The practical effect of the recent announcement is much larger than one individual or one specific case. If the federal government can weaponize the processes and resource allocations of its departments and agencies against one political party, it can unfairly weigh the scales of justice and public opinion in favor of its desired outcomes.
Conservatives are not seeking preferential treatment from our Nation’s judicial system. Instead, we are seeking a return to one of our country’s most sacred principles — adherence to the rule of law and the equal enforcement it guarantees for all Americans.
Jessica Hart Steinmann is General Counsel at America First Policy Institute and former senior official at the U.S. Department of Justice under President Donald J. Trump.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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