Do Democrats want Trump in jail? Most won’t say

A chronicle of Donald Trump's Crimes or Allegations

Do Democrats want Trump in jail? Most won’t say

Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill may want to see former President Trump go to jail, but they don’t want to say so publicly.

Though polls show an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters want Trump behind bars, Democrats generally are being careful with their on-the-record public remarks because they don’t want to be accused of trying to influence Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Juan Merchan ahead of Trump’s July 11 sentencing.

One exception is Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), a 29-year veteran of the House who is publicly voicing the private frustrations of many of his colleagues, who see Trump as having acted as if he’s above the law for too long.

Asked Wednesday if Trump should face jail time, Doggett said: “Yes, I do.”

“I would leave that up to the judge … who has shown more patience than Job in this case,” he said. “But part of the purpose of any jail time, modest as it might be, is to deter this kind of conduct.

“And President Trump continues to show total disrespect for the justice system, and I believe that more than a modest fine is appropriate to try to discourage conduct of this time,” he added.

Asked to clarify that he would like to see Trump behind bars, Doggett replied: “I would.”

“I think any community service he would do would be a disservice,” he added.

Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) echoed that sentiment this past weekend, telling MSNBC, “I absolutely think he should go to prison.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said he wanted the former president “treated like any other guy in New York who defrauded the state and the voters by that much. He shouldn’t be treated no better or worse than any other New Yorker. If that lands him in jail so be it.”

One Democratic senator who requested anonymity predicted that Trump would lose the election and eventually wind up in jail.

“I think that he should have jail time premised on this, on Jan. 6. I think if you put a whole series of things together that I think he will ultimately be found guilty of, that leads up to probably prison time,” said the lawmaker, who also cited Trump’s role in inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Democrats see Trump’s role in whipping up his supporters ahead of the Jan. 6 attack as his biggest crime, but that case — prosecuted by special counsel Jack Smith — is in limbo as the Supreme Court weighs the immunity claims raised by Trump’s legal team.

“Do I think he’s done enough to deserve to go to prison? Yeah, absolutely,” said the senator. “I have PTSD for almost a year walking down the hallway and envisioning what was happening in the rotunda.”

Some Democratic lawmakers see Trump doing time for the comparatively smaller offense of falsifying business records to cover up hush money payments to a porn actor as a measure of justice when it’s uncertain whether the other criminal cases against him will ever reach verdicts.

“Al Capone got caught on tax records,” the senator said, pointing out that one of the most notorious gangsters of the 1920s was finally imprisoned over tax evasion.

A second Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive subject said Democratic constituents at home overwhelmingly say that Trump should go to prison.

“Oh yeah, they think he should go to jail,” the senator said. “But the emotion comes less on this issue than the fact that he has abused people his whole life.”

“So there’s a sentiment it would be only just for him to be behind bars,” the senator added.

A CBS News poll of 989 U.S. adults conducted from May 30 to June 1 found that 75 percent of Democrats said Trump should serve time in prison. Only 34 percent of independents and 6 percent of Republicans said the same.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll of 2,556 U.S. residents conducted May 30-31 found that 81 percent of Democrats said Trump should go to prison for falsifying business records.

The survey found 45 percent of independents and 11 percent of Republicans agreed that Trump should be punished with jail time.

Republicans believe the guilty verdict in New York will boomerang on Democrats by enraging Trump’s supporters ahead of November. Trump and his allies have repeatedly cast the former president as a victim of politicized prosecutions.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said his Democratic colleagues want to put Trump in jail even if they won’t say so publicly.

“Do I think they want to? Oh yeah. That’s what this whole case is about. Yeah, of course,” he said. “They want him off the ballot ultimately, but that hasn’t succeeded.”

Some other Democratic lawmakers have come close to saying publicly that Trump should go to jail for his role in revving up the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

“Trump ought to be tried for what he did. What he did was incite and deploy an insurrection. That’s what he ought to be tried for. And people who have carried out the insurrection have been put in jail. In America, we believe that nobody is above the law,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the former House majority leader.

But many Democrats in Congress, including outspoken progressives, don’t want to say publicly that Trump should go to jail over his crimes to conceal hush money payments to adult film actor Stormy Daniels.

“I think that’s up to a judge,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said when asked whether Trump should face jail time.

“I don’t have a background in the typical sentencing for cases like these, but I do think that the president should be treated the way any other America who committed 34 felonies on fraudulent behavior would be,” she added. “I do think he should be treated like an everyday person.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, declined to give an opinion about what sentence Trump should receive.

“I don’t know. I want that to be left to the judge because I haven’t looked at what is typical for that kind of a crime,” she said.

Asked about potential jail time, Jayapal said, “I’d like to see him receive what other people receive for a similar offense.” 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), an outspoken Trump critic, declined to touch the subject.

“I’m not going to comment on whether he should go to jail. I don’t want to impact the decision at this point. I think that the decision about the punishment should be in this case is one for the judge to make,” he said.

“We want the basic outcome here to be for Donald Trump to be treated as would be any other defendant. He’s not above the law,” he said.

Asked whether Trump should go to prison, Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said: “I think the judge will decide.”

“I’ll leave it to the judicial process,” he said.

Republican lawmakers, by contrast, haven’t hesitated to condemn the Manhattan jury’s guilty verdict.

“The Dems have weaponized the justice system, they held a trial worthy of a banana republic with a judge that donated to Joe Biden’s campaign. It’s a total and complete sham,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) declared at a Senate GOP leadership press conference Tuesday.

Daines said Monday, “we shouldn’t allow a kangaroo court to be interfering with this election.”

That prompted a sharp response from Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.), the chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, calling Daines’s attacks on the court “ridiculous.”

“This is the American judicial system and I have faith in the judicial system. Jurors made a decision after hearing all of the evidence,” he said. “We have to have respect for our judicial institutions. It’s irresponsible on his part to tear down our judicial system in this country. It’s the foundation of our democracy.”