In the fall of 1792, France’s National Convention reached a momentous decision. Not only would former King Louis XVI stand trial, charged with 33 separate crimes against the French nation; the Convention itself, not a criminal court, would try him. Many deputies opposed taking on the role of a court. Some wanted Louis to go on trial as an ordinary criminal. Maximilien Robespierre insisted that no trial was needed at all, since the French nation had already pronounced sentence upon Louis by overthrowing him the previous August. But in the end, it was the argument of Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just that prevailed. “This man must reign or die,” he said of Louis. “It is impossible to reign innocently… Citizens, the court which must judge Louis is not a judicial court. It is a council, it is the People, it is you.” The Convention put Louis on trial that winter, convicted him, and sentenced him to death.
A really interesting question David. The results of such public trials are preordained. The National Assembly was not going to spare the king and the US Senate would not convict Trump. Then what? How should societies handle despots -- particularly someone like Trump who is planning a comeback and who has already declared his intention to dedicate his 2nd term to revenge. Should we just hope he doesn't get elected? Hasn't the experience of modern democracies showed us repeatedly that crooks, demagogues, and racists can get elected and then destroy democracy? The legal system is the last defense -- the only thing that can spare us from the fate of Russia, Turkey, Hungary etc.