The Capitol riots last week saw Donald Trump's presidency end with calls for impeachment. Though Trump will soon be a former president, the scrutiny which has dogged him for the past 4 years is not ending and is set to impact the Biden presidency an 2022 midterms. Trump's fate lies in the hands of those he reviled and both sides need to tread carefully, writes Donald Forbes.

Whether Donald Trump has the right to pardon himself for federal offences committed under his presidency is an unresolved question. If he does not, the storming of the Capitol by hundreds of his supporters has made him more vulnerable to the prosecution Democrats have long threatened.

His moral authority destroyed by the protest that cost five lives, Trump's future depends on the political calculations of vengeful Democrats who never accepted his legitimacy in the White House. Until now, they have been vague about the grounds a Biden attorney general would have for treating Trump as a criminal. The task has become easier as Trump's allies on the respectable right peel way which attorney general William Barr prudently did before Christmas.

Trump is as exposed as any president since Richard Nixon who was pardoned, to the fury of many Americans, by his successor Gerald Ford. He has no defenders outside his MAGA base who are themselves in disgrace. He hasn't even said sorry for his actions on Wednesday. With the Democratic House speaker Nancy Pelosi threatening a second impeachment which could continue even when he is out of office, Trump finds himself at the mercy of ruthless and relentless opponents who want to drive a stake through his political heart.

For all his 75 million voters, Trump is today the loneliest man in America, devoid of either friends or apologists in a Washington whose cross-party elites feared and loathed him throughout his tenure. The easiest way for him to escape impeachment, which the Republicans have no power to stop even if they refuse to vote for it, would be for him to cut a deal with Pelosi and resign in favour of Mike Pence until Biden's inauguration on January 20. The terms of this deal could also allow Pence to pardon him for alleged federal crimes which he would have the constitutional power to do. In return Trump might make an explicit admission of wrongdoing that would remove him from politics in future, a key Democrat (and Republican establishment) aim.

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Would that be enough for Democrats? On the one hand, their hatred of Trump is invincible. They want him comprehensively and permanently humiliated and he has placed the means in their hands. On the other, a partisan prosecution, and possibly several of them, with the potential of prison time for their hero would keep Trump's 75 million voters riled and motivated for revenge in the 2022 midterms. The legitimacy of the Democrats' own president, Biden, is also tainted by allegations of widespread voter fraud. Liberals control most of the media and the flow of information to the American public. But maintaining the pretence over the next two years that Biden, at 78 and in physical and mental decline, is a normal president will not be easy.

The Democrats have big problems of their own. They defeated Trump in large part by blaming him for the mismanagement of Covid-19 but now own responsibility for it themselves. The fact is that the arrival of the vaccine is not going to change much in 2021 and possibly 2022. Biden has the dilemma of deciding between continued lockdowns and re-opening the economy to millions of Americans who are either unemployed or furloughed. They expect quick and positive relief that the new administration will find hard to provide.

This must weigh on how the Democrats decide how to treat Trump. Roll him up now with resignation or a quick impeachment and move on; or keep him going as a live issue that grates on MAGA nerves with petty criminal charges that look obviously ginned up for the purpose? Of the two options, a deal that takes the spotlight off Trump quickly and consigns him to history looks like the smarter course. The drawback to this solution is that it would only apply federally. Prosecutors in individual states would still be free to go after Trump for alleged crimes committed in their jurisdictions.

The Southern District of New York is investigating Trump for financial misconduct dating back to his inauguration. Laetitia James the NY state attorney general is investigating Trump's businesses and his family's role in them as well as his own. Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia recorded a telephone conversation in which Trump demanded he "find" enough votes for him to win the state which the official construed as incitement to commit a crime. Raffensperger said he didn't plan to seek the president's indictment but hinted some Georgia prosecutors might.

Amidst the ruins of his presidency, Trump's fate is in the hands of his bitterest enemies. They will decide whether it is to their advantage to set the precedent of possibly putting a former president behind bars.

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