ANDERSON — President Donald Trump could face legal trouble over his rhetoric stoking his supporters before a group of them attacked the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, said Anderson University President John Pistole.
“As the Supreme Court has held before, your right to freedom of speech does not extend to yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater,” Pistole said.
“There are always limits and I think this is, unfortunately, a great example of what those limits should be. And the fact is he will be out of office in two weeks and he won’t have the executive protection in terms of immunity ... so I think there’s some risk for him since there seems to be such a clear causal connection.”
Pistole said any decision to prosecute President Trump would be a policy decision, and one he’s glad he doesn’t have to make.
“The other question, of course, is whether he should resign, or whether he should be impeached, or should the 25th amendment be invoked,” Pistole said. “Those three options exist. It’s just staggering how things have unfolded.”
Trump ended his rally on Wednesday with a call for his supporters to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol.
Five people died in the ensuing riot, including a Capitol police officer and a protester.
“I think it’s very sad, it’s unfortunate, and it’s even outrageous that we as a people have gone beyond peaceful protests and civil disagreement and even civil disobedience to accomplish our goals to outright violence,” Pistole said.
Before coming to AU, Pistole was the former deputy director of the FBI and administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.
He said in law enforcement and security there is a balancing act between having the appropriate assets in place but doing so in a reasonable and not overly militaristic way.
He understands police were trying to avoid a war-zone atmosphere but that clearly a decision by the Capitol Police to not request more assets sooner was a mistake.
“I mean, to think that’s the first time since the war of 1812 that the Capitol has been breached like that,” Pistole said.
Moving forward, Pistole would like to see people praying for the country – not a particular party or ideology, but for the country.
“The Scripture talks about if my people will humble themselves, and come and pray, and seek my face, and I’ll be found by them,” Pistole said. “I just think that’s what we need to be doing these days is humbling ourselves as individuals and as a country and seek God’s face and favor.”