Republican senator says Trump's fate should be left to the courts

A Republican senator said Sunday that the former president's fate should be left in the hands of the Department of Justice and the federal courts.

January 09, 2022, 2:59 PM

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., said former President Donald Trump’s fate should be left in the hands of the Department of Justice and the federal courts over his role in allegedly inciting the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection.

In an interview with ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, the senator said all Americans, even former presidents, are subject to the U.S. court system.

"What happens with a president is that he has the shield of office, which in many cases prohibits or limits the ability of the courts to address issues surrounding that. What an impeachment does is take away that shield. President Trump was no longer president at the time that that occurred," Rounds said. "The courts are the appropriate place where those questions should be answered."

PHOTO: Sen. Mike Rounds walks to Senate Republican policy luncheons at the Capitol, Oct. 7, 2021.
Sen. Mike Rounds walks to Senate Republican policy luncheons at the Capitol, Oct. 7, 2021.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rounds voted to certify the election of President Joe Biden and voted against convicting Donald Trump in his Senate impeachment trial for his alleged role in the insurrection. On the day of the insurrection, he was among the last to leave the Senate chambers and helped scoop up and secure the boxes of validated electoral votes.

While Rounds joined 42 of his Senate colleagues voting not to impeach during Trump's second impeachment trial, he was among the few Republicans who suggested the former president could be prosecuted under federal law pertaining to rebellion and insurrection.

"If they think they (the Department of Justice) have got that, they can bring the evidence forward. In my opinion, they haven't done that yet," Rounds said.

While many Republicans still refer to the 2020 presidential election as stolen, Rounds isn't one of them. He agreed the election was "fair, as fair as we've seen" despite Trump and his supporters continuing to baselessly say the election was stolen and was rampant with fraud.

"While there were some irregularities, there were none of the irregularities which would have risen to the point where they would have changed the vote outcome in a single state," Rounds said.

He said that moving forward, it is important for the Republican party to convey that message to the public.

"We simply did not win the election, as Republicans, for the presidency," Rounds said. "And if we simply look back and tell our people don't vote because there's cheating going on, then we're going to put ourselves in a huge disadvantage."

Stephanopoulos pressed Rounds, asking, "So, just to be clear, then, if the Department of Justice comes forward with evidence that President Trump was indeed complicit, more evidence that President Trump was complicit, you would support prosecution?"

Rounds responded, "In this particular case, it's not going to be up to a member of the Senate to support prosecution. So, if they think they have got that, they can bring the evidence forward. In my opinion, they haven't done that yet. And it's going to be up to them to make that case. But that shield of the presidency does not exist for someone who is a former president."

When asked by Stephanopoulos if he would support Trump if he ran for president again, Rounds did not offer an endorsement, but he also did not rule out the possibility.

"I will take a hard look at it," Rounds said. "Personally, what I have told people is, is I'm going to support the Republican nominee to be president."

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., also appeared on "This Week" immediately after Rounds and said he was "delighted" to hear the senator and other Republican lawmakers give consideration to prosecuting Trump if evidence shows he aided and abetted the insurrection.

PHOTO: Sen. Jamie Raskin speaks during a candlelight vigil, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington, D.C., on the one year anniversary of the attack on the Capitol.
Sen. Jamie Raskin speaks during a candlelight vigil, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington, D.C., on the one year anniversary of the attack on the Capitol.
Julio Cortez/AP

Raskin, a member of the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, said a number of people in the Trump administration have come forward with evidence to help the committee in "connecting all the dots."

"Based on what you found so far, do you have evidence that President Trump was complicit, that he actually participated in the insurrection?" Stephanopoulos asked Raskin, who was the lead manager of Trump's second impeachment trial.

Raskin replied, "Well, we already have the fact that he was impeached by the House of Representatives for inciting a violent insurrection against the Union, and 57 to 43 definitive legislative pronouncement by the Senate that he incited a violent insurrection. The question is to what extent he was complicit in organizing it."

Raskin, who was also at the Capitol building during the insurrection and sought shelter in a congressional hearing room, said his committee intends to release a "comprehensive and fine-grained portrait of everything that happened, including the central role of the president."

The committee has interviewed more than 300 people and served over 50 subpoenas. Trump's former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham voluntarily met with the committee in a closed session last week.

"You said she opened up lines of inquiry that hadn't occurred to you. Like what?" Stephanopoulos asked Raskin.

Raskin said Grisham provided a number of names and offered a perspective on the events of Jan. 6 that he had not heard before.

"Overwhelmingly, people participated," Raskin said. "It’s only a problem the closer you get to Donald Trump and you have a handful of people who think they're above the law like Roger Stone and Steve Bannon and Mark Meadows, once he was intimidated by Donald Trump."

Raskin said one strategy the committee is exploring is how to prevent Trump from running for reelection ever again.

"Section 3 of the 14th Amendment says anybody who has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution, who violates and betrays that oath by participating in an insurrection or rebellion against the Union shall never be allowed to hold public office again. That was adopted by the Republicans -- the radical Republicans after the Civil War, during the Reconstruction period," Raskin said. "It was used then. And it may indeed, depending on what we find Donald Trump did, be a blockade for him ever being able to run for office again."

Stephanopoulos asked Raskin, "Are you confident you can complete your work before the midterms? And, how concerned are you that if Republicans do take control of the Congress next time around, they will undo everything you’ve done in the committee?"

Raskin replied, "Well, look, I think that the true obligation of a political party and a constitutional democracy is to accept that there are rules of the game."

But Raskin also suggested that the GOP is no longer playing by long-established rules.

"The GOP, under Donald Trump's thumb, is now positioning itself outside of the constitutional order," Raskin said.

He said Trump and his Republican allies have "attacked our constitutional processes and they attacked the outcome of our elections with lies, even against all of the evidence."

"That is a totalitarian tactic," Raskin said, "and we have to call it for what it is and say, that's not going to work in American democracy in the 21st century."

Related Topics

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events