Crimes of the Powerful: Trump’s Much-Deserved Impeachment

After seeing a seemingly endless stream of posts of social media about Trump being impeached, I wanted to say something. Although most things that can be said have been said – I wanted to also add some personal thoughts on the matter as well as some different context.

This semester while studying abroad I got a chance to take some fun, new classes. One of them was Introduction to Criminology. It was a fantastic course – I gained a lot of new perspectives and learned so much. My favorite section of the course was about “crimes of the powerful,” along with “critical criminology.” I won’t dive too deep into criminological theory, but here’s a brief explanation of the specific theories. Crimes of the powerful theory examines crimes like white collar crime, corporate crime, and state-corporate crime. These crimes consist of things like financial crimes, tax evasion, fraud, bribery and corruption, unsafe food/drugs/equipment sold to consumers, illegal emissions, violating pay/wage laws, or discrimination in employment. Crimes of the powerful often share one common similarity – that they are incredibly difficult to detect and to prosecute – they are known for having a level of ‘invisibility.’ There is lenient treatment to offenders, and typically a diffusion of responsibility, along with an ability for perpetrators to coerce or bribe their way out of facing justice. Crimes of the powerful are endemic and overall cause much greater harm to society and to individual people than face-to-face violent crime – which is extensively reported on and severely prosecuted, although it’s the rarest form of crime.

Critical criminology asks us to question: why do we focus on the crimes that hurt the least people and happen the least statistically, compared with endemic crimes of the powerful which cause significantly greater harm? I recorded a note from one lecture that stood out to me:

“Maybe what is stuffed into our consciousness as the crime problem is in fact an illusion, a trick to deflect our attention away from other, even more serious crimes and victimizing behaviors, which objectively cause the vast bulk of avoidable death, injury, and deprivation” (Box 1983, p3).

Critical criminology asks us to consider who decides the norms regarding crime, and views criminal law as a form of social control which maintains ruling class power and oppresses the most vulnerable people in society.

Crimes of the powerful are being committed by corporations and individuals that bring great harm to us as a society and yet these crimes are not being punished – instead people are put in jail for trivial reasons every day and because of a criminal justice system that is racist, biased, and often unjust. Corporations are free to pollute the earth, scam and cheat people out of money, and contribute to deaths because of negligence – to name just a few examples. Yet these crimes go unpunished, and minor crimes that cause little harm to society are treated as incredibly serious, and condemns the most vulnerable populations.

In terms of Trump – he has done a great many things that I would consider to be a crime. Things that in my opinion are much more worthy of being impeached for than a quid pro quo. Trump’s actions that led to children kept in cages. Trump’s support of the Saudi genocide in Yemen. Trump’s approval of drone programs which led to civilian casualties and extrajudicial killings. Trump’s rolling back of environmental regulations. None of these are what Trump was impeached for – but they are most certainly examples of crimes of the powerful.

Trump was impeached for abuse of power and for obstruction of Congress. Although his previous offenses led to loss of life and serious harm to individuals and to our environment and future – I do not take his impeachment charges lightly even if they do not, in my opinion, hold the same weight. Because at the end of day – no matter which crimes he is charged for – I believe it is incredibly important that we hold those in power accountable. It is a core foundation of our government – separation of powers spoke to that.

Although it seems unlikely at this point that Trump will be removed from office, his impeachment should not be considered less important. Because it still is. It matters that we acknowledge Trump committed crimes, that he abused and misused his power, and that it had real consequences for real people. It matters that his crimes are considered as such.

I truly do not believe that Republicans in the Senate or the House think Trump is innocent of what he’s accused of. I just think that they do not care – that they think at the end of the day what he did was excusable or tolerable because it is more important to them that he stays in power. Trump is guilty of a quid pro quo. But Trump has also committed many more crimes of the powerful.

We should stop to question what we’re asked to believe is acceptable and what is criminal. Trump has committed numerous crimes of the powerful during his terms in office. It’s not okay, and we shouldn’t think it is. I hope that while he was only impeached on the two accounts, there can come a time when we can hold him, and the people like him, accountable for their crimes. These crimes of the powerful affect every one of us.

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