Transcript: Trump Indictments: A Conversation with Alberto R. Gonzales

MS. LEONNIG: Good afternoon and welcome to Washington Post Live. I’m Carol Leonnig, political investigative reporter here at The Washington Post.

Former President Trump was indicted for a fourth time earlier this week. With each of these four indictments, the narrative on both sides of the aisle has become all the more polarizing. I am joined today by former U.S. attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales, here to talk about the legal considerations with the latest indictment as well as the consideration for our country, and his message to Republicans and more.

Judge Gonzales, welcome to Washington Post Live.

MR. GONZALES: Well, thanks for having me. That was quite an introduction, so I am looking forward to the conversation.

MS. LEONNIG: You know, I’m delighted to be here because I used to cover you from a much more junior position, and it is so nice to have you join us to give your legal insights today.

I want to start if we can, Judge, with the Georgia indictment, the most recent of the four. Let’s start there. A grand jury indicted the former president and 18 allies as unindicted co-conspirators — forgive me, as co-conspirators with multiple crimes related to conspiracy, racketeering, and more. Of all the evidence we have seen or heard about tied to the Georgia indictment, what do you think is the most damning for the former president’s case and for his reputation?

MR. GONZALES: Well, that is going to depend, of course, on the presentation of the evidence, whether it can be admitted, and also based upon the experiences of the jurors and the impact that evidence that is presented makes upon them.

In terms of public relations, I think the evidence that most people are currently aware of, of course, is the phone call with the secretary of state, where then-President Trump asked the secretary of state of Georgia to try to find additional votes in his favor. So I think most people had heard that evidence.

There is going to be a lot of evidence that is laid out in the indictment. I think the district attorney did a really good job in terms of laying out the case, which isn’t to say that it’s going to be an easy case to prosecute, quite frankly. It’s going to be a lot of complexities and a number of, of course, defendants, meaning there are a number of lawyers, which means there are going to be a number of motions. It is just going to take some time.

So I view this case as probably the one that is going to take the longest to resolve. Obviously, when you have this number of defendants, there is a really good possibility between those who are charged with lesser crimes, that they will flip and become cooperating witnesses, and that may reduce the number.

But it certainly is one that very — state prosecution, a successful prosecution against the president presents a danger in that because it would be a conviction of state crimes a president of the United States, even if Donald Trump were successful in becoming president again, would not have the authority to pardon himself.

And there is a big debate I think today, in academia, and amongst legal commentators as to whether or not a president can, in fact, pardon himself. I happen to lean towards yes, he can, because the Constitution does not expressly prohibit it. And while we may not like that result, we may not think it is fair, it is true the pardon power of the president of the United States is virtually unlimited. And I think one could make a strong argument that he could do that.

So if there is a conviction in Georgia that would present a serious challenge.

MS. LEONNIG: Glad you mentioned that. It reminds me of a story I did in the first days of covering the administration, the Trump administration, which was that he was interviewing lawyers and asking then, in 2017, whether he could pardon himself, which was pretty unusual.

I have to ask you, this indictment from Fani Willis is the product of a nearly 2 1/2-year investigation, one that the Justice Department did not take up at first. Was this final product what you expected it to be? Was the story and narrative she laid out what you expected?

MR. GONZALES: Oh, it really is. I think she did a credible job. But again, we have rules of evidence and what she is going to present to a group of unbiased jurors is going to be contested by the attorneys for the defendants. And so, you know, at the end of the day the question is what is going to be allowed to be presented to the jury and how is the jury going to accept that information?

One thing that I do want to emphasize, and I will do it again and again, that is all of these defendants, including Donald Trump, and including other cases in which Donald Trump has been indicted, I mean, there is a presumption of innocence in our country. And so he hasn’t been convicted of anything. He is still eligible for everything. Some people have questioned whether or not a person who has been indicted and prosecuted, is that person ineligible to be president of the United States? Well, that hasn’t happened yet. And so we always should be mindful of the fact that everyone is presumed innocent, beyond a reasonable doubt, unless it is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

MS. LEONNIG: Well, I think that’s smart, and let’s talk a little bit about something that’s actually happening now rather than a conviction, and that is in the last 48 hours there has been a lot of concern about the rise of violent threats against people engaged in this case. Grand jurors, who are providing a public service in Georgia, had their names and information shared online, and there were threats about people showing up at their houses. Prosecutors in Fani Willis’s office also feeling the heat that they may be in physical danger. And there was a threat made that led to an investigation, a threat made against the federal judge overseeing the federal case, Tanya Chutkan.

What do you think should be done, Judge, about these highly unusual attacks on essentially the rule of law and our product of justice?

MR. GONZALES: These kinds of actions, this kind of rhetoric, these threats are extremely dangerous, and I’m not surprised, quite frankly, given the history of the past few years, the responses that we’ve seen. I think January 6th is a perfect example of the extreme violence that the supporters of Donald Trump are willing to engage in, in order to support his cause, further his cause.

So I think these kinds of unusual threats need to be responded in kind in terms of unusual responses, and measures should be taken to hold these people accountable in every way that can be under either state law or federal law. And, of course, I think the state and the federal government should take steps to ensure the safety of these individuals, these public servants, who are simply trying to do their job, on behalf of the people of Georgia, on behalf of the people of the United States, and they should be able to do it without fear of physical violence, even without fear of threats.

So I am hopeful that, again, both the state of Georgia and the United States of America take appropriate steps to ensure that these individuals feel protected and, in fact, are protected from violence.

MS. LEONNIG: Turning for a second, Judge, to the federal indictment, there has been a lot of discussion on both sides of the aisle about the timing of the trial in the case that Jack Smith brought against Trump involving his alleged illegal efforts to overturn the election in 2020. You’ve endorsed a trial date in January of 2024, the one proposed by Jack Smith. What is your message to Judge Chutkan, who is overseeing this case, as she tries to make a decision by the end of this month on the trial?

MR. GONZALES: Yeah, I’m not sure I need to give this particular judge a message of moving this thing forward. Listen, I think the American people, the American voter needs to know whether Donald Trump engaged in criminal activity. Not only is it fair to the American voters, it’s fair to Donald Trump, honestly. I mean, if I’ve been indicted for committing a crime, I’d like to get to the bottom of that trial as quickly as possible and get the answer out there, assuming, of course, that I am innocent.

But yeah, I think it’s important in this particular case to have a trial before the election. I think it’s a tremendously important piece of information that voters need to have as to whether or not, again, this person engaged in criminal conduct. And I’m hopeful that the trial can occur sooner than later, and I think Jack Smith was smart in just simply indicting Donald Trump, keeping it pretty straightforward, pretty streamlined. And I think there’s a real possibility that with this judge that that can occur.

Now, of course, we don’t know the defenses. We don’t know the number of witnesses the other side is going to have. And so there is a lot of unknown. But I think Jack Smith has done a good job in terms of laying down a framework in which there is a possibility that we will have a trial, that that trial will be completed before the election, which I think is important.

MS. LEONNIG: And you’ve answered my second question on that. Thank you.

I’m going to now turn to a guest we had at Washington Post Live last week, former Judge Michael Luttig, who was here, and joined in your amicus brief in support of a speedy trial. I want to play part of that conversation for you, Judge, and for our audience. Let’s just take a look for a moment.

[Video plays.]

MS. LEONNIG: Judge Gonzales, are Republicans listening to the point that Judge Luttig is making? You know, he is sort of, as you are, you know, an icon, an important figure in Republican politics. And if they are not listening, how do you expect or hope to get through to them?

MR. GONZALES: Well, I mean, I have a great deal of respect for Judge Luttig, more so because of his service on the bench. He was just a great judge.

You know, for the longest time, because there has been sort of crazy rhetoric out there for many, many years surrounding former President Trump, and for the longest time I just sort of ignored it as silly. But for quite some time now I have come to the conclusion that it is too dangerous to ignore it.

And so it is important for people in the Republican Party to speak out for the rhetoric and activities that we fundamentally know, deep in our hearts, that it is wrong. And we need to speak out against it because oftentimes words turn into action. And, you know, we are starting to see some of that.

So I think it is very, very important for people, the leadership of the Republican Party, and not just because it’s good for the party — there is no question about that in my judgment, given the recent string of losses we have had, the party has had in recent elections — but it is good for the country, quite frankly, I think to have two strong parties that produce strong, ethical candidates, that present compelling choices on both sides to the American voter. That is kind of system we ought to have in place. I think that is a system that our founding fathers had in mind.

And so I’m hoping we get to that. I’d like to think that with each passing indictment and with the passage of time that as more people speak out a groundswell will begin, and people will come to understand the importance of being patient, not criticizing the process, letting the process play out. And it may turn out that Donald Trump is exonerated on every single count, and if so, then I would accept it because I accept our system of government. It is not perfect, but we have a system in place. It is the rule of law, and we accept the outcome, whatever it may be. And I’d like more Americans, I’d like all Americans to feel the same way.

MS. LEONNIG: What do you think is the reason that so many Republicans believe this indictment, these larger probes, the other three that go behind it, why do you think that there’s such a strong belief that this is a political witch hunt? When you make the argument, it absolutely is not.

MR. GONZALES: Well, look. Obviously, the defendants have something to do with that. It would be one thing if Donald Trump simply said, “Well, I disagree with the indictment. I am innocent, and I am going to prove it in a court of law,” and that’s it. That’s all he says.

Well, that then creates the possibility that whatever the outcome, the American public are going to accept it because the defendant in the case, whatever the outcomes, accepts the final decision.

So it’s simply a question of trying to remind the American people that we do have a system of governance, we do have the rule of law, which means that all of us are subject to the same rules, treated the same, and that we are judged by a public and recognized set of rules and principles, rules of evidence, before a neutral decision-maker, before a jury of our peers that are unbiased, and that we accept the outcome.

And that’s the way that our system is set up, and one of the things that I worry about is that system is being strained by this individual. And again, it may turn out that he is perfectly innocent, in which case I think he’ll applaud, perhaps, the outcome. He will be critical of the prosecution, and that will cause further damage to the rule of law. Because, you know, I think if you are exonerated in our system, you know, you’re thankful, but you don’t go out and say, “Well, this was all a witch hunt and I have just proven it.” Well, no. It may just simply mean that the prosecution has not carried its burden, could not get key evidence in, a key witness disappeared or is unwilling to testify.

So again, it doesn’t mean that you’re innocent, necessarily. It means that you haven’t been proven guilty in a court of law, according to our rules.

MS. LEONNIG: Judge, I can’t help but single in on two things you said there. One was this sort of belief that you’re hopeful that the tide will turn and people will start to understand, in your party, that this is not politically intended and these are facts that are being alleged by prosecutors doing their very best.

Do you not think that might be wishful thinking? There’s been a long, long period of time for members of the party to embrace the facts that have been alleged and facts that have been proven, essentially, in newspaper stories and documented. The phone call to Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, is literally on tape and can be played any time you go to Google it. Is it wishful thinking on your part?

MR. GONZALES: Absolutely not. What’s the alternative? Do we give up? Do we adopt the same strategy and be critical of our systems and tear them down when we don’t like the outcome? No, absolutely not. We accept it. We continue to talk about it. It’s important for our leadership in the Republican Party. Perhaps if we continue to lose more elections then they’ll finally get the idea, because they seem to be motivated more by self-preservation than about preserving the freedoms and our institutional systems here in America.

And so I’m an optimist in my heart. I know it’s possible in this great country of ours. I’m the son of a construction worker, and I became the attorney general of the United States. We live in a country where dreams still come true, and people have the opportunity to achieve those dreams, but only because we have institutional systems in place, sort of guardrails, to ensure that that opportunity is available to everyone. And, you know, I’d like to think that those opportunities will continue for my sons, for my grandchildren, and maybe that’s why people like me are fighting so hard to wake people up to the dangers of simply ignoring some of the things that we see going on in this country today.

MS. LEONNIG: I just have two more questions on this topic. You know, you penned a powerful op-ed for The Post recently where you expressed dismay, maybe even disdain, for the fact that the first three indictments against Donald Trump seemed to boost the former president’s favorability.

My two questions. Why do you think that’s the case? Why do you think it’s boosting favorability? And then second, you know — well, let me let you answer that one and I’ll get to the second in a minute.

MR. GONZALES: Yeah. Well, I’m not an expert here on this particular subject. I suppose because the former president has made a convincing argument that this is all aimed at him and that the reason that he’s being prosecuted is because he’s the frontrunner to receive the Republican nomination.

But, you know, I’ve got news for him and news for his supporters. He would still be investigated and subject to prosecution for the things that have happened even if he weren’t running for the office of the presidency, and there’s no question in my mind that there would still be investigations, still be prosecutions. It has so little, and certainly should have so little to do with the fact that he’s a nominee for president.

I promise you, Merrick Garland would wish for anything that this was not occurring during a presidential election, where Donald Trump is seemingly the Republican frontrunner for president because, you know, it does give people an opportunity, including former President Trump, to say, “This is all about politics. This is all about to derail my chances for the White House.” You know, I wish that weren’t so. I wish this investigation and prosecution wasn’t occurring during a presidential election season, but it is what it is, and you move forward with the prosecution when you’re ready to prosecute the case, and that’s what’s going on here.

Now, I have heard, and I wrote about this, I’ve heard from a number of Republican friends and colleagues, people that I respect and admire, who have expressed — you know, they have sort of said, “You know, it does look like it’s in favor of Democrats and against Republicans.” And that bothers me because we need to have confidence in our judicial system, in our criminal justice system. And even when people that should know better start questioning whether, you know, is there favoritism here, well, that’s something that to me is very, very troublesome.

And that’s why we need to speak out and try to reassure everyone that this is the right thing to do, and, you know, let the process work and then we can make an evaluation as to whether or not it worked the way it should.

MS. LEONNIG: Understood. Now part two of my question, Judge, is just yesterday Republican strategists in Georgia were saying that Trump’s political resilience, so to speak, could falter due to the new Georgia indictment. Do you think it is a turning point? I know that your focus is not on his popularity, but do you think that this fourth indictment marks a change?

MR. GONZALES: It marks a change in Georgia or it marks a change nationwide? Even if it’s just Georgia it would be important in a presidential election, no question about it. It may. I think that you’ve got a governor that is very strong and very popular. I think you have got a secretary of state that is also very strong, and I think people have a great deal of confidence in.

And so I think that, you know, their actions, the things that they say I think are important, and I think if there is a trial and there is a successful prosecution of course I think that would make a difference. That would raise a host of very difficult constitutional questions that we’ve never had to deal with before. Let’s say, for example, that he is convicted in state court but he’s elected president. You know, what happens? Does the president serve his term of office from jail, from a Georgia prison?

So again, all kinds of novel constitutional questions, and I think no one ever expected to have to answer or deal with. But we’ll just have to wait and see. You know, it’s beyond my knowledge as to the politics in Georgia and what the outcome in Georgia might mean for the rest of the federal cases.

MS. LEONNIG: Let’s move to the trial, and I have two audience questions that really seem really worth asking you. One is from Shelley in Wisconsin, who asks, “Do you believe it’s possible for Donald Trump to get a fair trial,” and I think this means in D.C. in the federal case, “despite the divisiveness of the political environment?”

MR. GONZALES: Yes, I do believe it’s possible to get a fair trial. I mean, the prosecutors and the defense counsel will work very hard to get jurors that are unbiased. Now, will they have total ignorance of what’s going on in this country? No. But the question is can they render a fair and just verdict, based upon the evidence that’s presented in trial, not based upon what Donald Trump may be saying today or what is in the newspaper next week, but on the evidence that is at trial.

And yes, I do think it’s possible. Certainly, I appreciate the fact that apparently there are greater numbers of people who voted for President Biden in D.C., then there are, say, in Florida, but that’s just the way it is. And so even though you may have more Democratic individuals that are in the jury pool, that doesn’t mean that the jury that is ultimately selected is biased against the President.

And so I think that the lawyers will do their job, and I think that they will produce a jury that can be fair and unbiased.

MS. LEONNIG: We have a second audience question. This one is from Harley in Maryland, who asks, “Do you think this trial should be televised live?”

MR. GONZALES: I’m assuming that we’re talking about the January 6th trial. You know, I’m a former judge, and I never have been a big fan of cameras in the courtroom because it does affect behavior, and I wouldn’t like lawyers acting up because there is a camera in the courtroom and they’re auditioning for their next job, for their next engagement.

But so long as a defendant is able to receive a fair trial, and so long as a defendant receives due process, this may be a case in which having cameras in the courtroom might be beneficial, might be helpful.

Let’s assume that President Trump is convicted, and again, we are a long way from there. He simply has been indicted. But let’s assume he’s convicted, and his supporters have seen the evidence presented, have seen it with their own eyes, have heard it, and they listened to the defense put on by former President Trump’s counsel. He may even testify, although I doubt it. But nonetheless, they see the process, and they can see that he’s being treated fairly. In fact, you know, I suspect he’s going to receive far more protections, more presumptions in his favor because of his former status as president of the United States than you and I might receive in a courtroom. But anyway, I think the American public could benefit from seeing it, particularly his supporters.

Now, that puts even greater pressure on the Department of Justice to do their job. You know, they will have to go above and beyond in terms of being fair and unbiased, which they would in any event.

But nonetheless, again, this allegedly also is a crime that the president committed against democracy, against the people of the United States, and one could make the argument that, therefore, the people of the United States should see this trial.

MS. LEONNIG: Compelling argument. I wonder if Judge Chutkan is going to tune in to Washington Post Live and make some changes to allow the public to see the rule of law in operation.

I’m going to ask you another question related to this. Mark Meadows, the former President’s then chief of staff, is trying to move the Georgia case and its charges against . Do you think he will succeed in this petition, just remembering that he’s charged as a co-conspirator in Georgia and is not at all identified as a co-conspirator in the federal case brought by the special counsel?

MR. GONZALES: Okay. Well, you cut out so I’m not sure that I heard all of your question. I think your question was whether or not his request to move this prosecution out of Georgia to D.C., will it be successful. I’ll be very candid with you. I have no idea. I think of all the individuals in this case, he probably has the strongest argument and would be most likely to be successful. But again, I just don’t know.

MS. LEONNIG: Fine. Forgive me for cutting out. I was just asking about how he is not charged in the federal sort of trimmed-down case by Jack Smith, and is a co-conspirator indicted in Georgia. It’s a very different situation.

So we also received, Judge, several audience questions about the Fourteenth Amendment, and whether there is a scenario in which it could be used to remove Trump from running for or taking the White House. Do you have any opinions on this?

MR. GONZALES: [Unclear]

MS. LEONNIG: Yes.

MR. GONZALES: Well, yes, there is a provision in the Fourteenth Amendment which prohibits individuals from holding office if they have committed insurrection against the United States of America. I’m not sure that that standard has been met yet. In fact, I would argue that it hasn’t been met yet. If he’s convicted in the January 6th trial, I think the argument becomes much stronger, which would be one reason why it would be good to have the outcome of that trial completed before the election.

Now, having said that, let’s say I don’t know what the process would look like in terms of enforcing that provision of the Constitution, and in the end, it would be challenged, and it would go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Whether or not the court, how quickly the courts could move remains to be seen. They may not feel the same urgency as I do in terms of having this resolved before Election Day.

And so, again, there is so much that could happen here. But an argument can be made because of the language of the Fourteenth Amendment. And this was, I think, intended to prohibit those who fought for the South from holding office in the U.S. government after the Civil War. But how it would be applied here, again, a lot of unanswered questions.

MS. LEONNIG: Judge, let’s talk a little bit again about trust and distrust in the Justice Department. In your op-ed you talk about the rule of law being on trial, not so much Donald Trump, in some respects. You wrote that democracy is at risk if we can’t prosecute a former president when there is evidence they engaged in crimes.

I’m curious. What do you think are all of our roles here to address that risk to democracy? What’s your counsel to fellow Republicans, to the courts, the prosecutors, and even the press? What do you think we should be doing about this danger that democracy finds itself in?

MR. GONZALES: Well, I think all of us have a role to play in this grand experiment of democracy, honestly, and I think that we get into trouble when we attack other actors, when individuals attack our system of government, attack the Department of Justice, attack individuals personally. Again, we all have a role to play, there are processes in place, and we need to allow people to do their job, and we need to allow the process to move forward. And at the end of the day — and I can’t overemphasize this enough — under our rule of law this president, former President Trump, may be found innocent of all charges, and so we need to give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt and let the process play out.

Now, he needs to take that advice himself, in fact, some would argue more than anyone else he needs to take that advice. I don’t believe — and, of course, he doesn’t take advice from me, nor would he ever — but I think he is his worst enemy, and I think the more he says, the more he attacks, I think it further weakens confidence in our government, and I think that’s dangerous. And so even if he is acquitted of all the charges, I fear that in the process, through his rhetoric, he will do grave damage to our institutions of government.

Now, of course, as a defendant you have the right to defend yourself and to speak out, but there are certainly many different ways you can do that. And all I am saying is that from my observation the way this particular defendant engages in defense I think is very destructive.

MS. LEONNIG: You know, you’ve laid out your message to Republicans who make the argument to you privately, and also some who make it publicly, that they think the Justice Department is or may be biased against the GOP. Do you have any empathy or understanding for why some of these people so profoundly distrust the Justice Department now, even some of your former colleagues?

MR. GONZALES: Well, I think they fail to understand some key data points, and that is, every case is going to depend on the facts. And so you may have conduct in one situation that looks very similar to the conduct in the second situation, and yet the Department of Justice treats the cases differently. The charging is different, the strategy to prosecute is different, and it’s because prosecutors have a great deal of discretion, and there are differences in experience and judgment.

And so simply because there is a decision to prosecute in one case and you may have similar facts in another case but the prosecutor decides not to move forward, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s bias. Now obviously it might raise questions, and one needs to ensure that, in fact, there isn’t bias. But it may just simply be that one prosecutor is more aggressive than the other and is willing to take a chance on losing in court because there is a questionable witness, while another prosecutor is perhaps not as experienced, is a bit more careful, more conservative, and is not willing to take that chance, is more concerned about winning cases than just, you know, taking on any case that is assigned to him.

So you have different outcomes in the cases, and I just think the American people need to remember that. They know that, but they just need to remember that those different outcomes are a result of different facts, and oftentimes the littlest fact can make a big difference. But they are also as a result of different experience, different exercises in discretion by the prosecutors in every case.

But nonetheless, yes, I have heard from people questioning decisions by the Department of Justice, and see, that bothers me because I know that weakens credibility. People lose confidence in the work of the department, and I think that’s a dangerous place to be, as a country.

MS. LEONNIG: Judge, this might be a little bit of a touchy question, but back to the role we all play in our democratic experiment. Do you think the former presidents before Donald Trump have done enough, have said enough, have taken enough steps to express their dismay and their concern about the challenge to our institutions and the sowing of distrust in the department?

MR. GONZALES: You mean the former presidents speaking about the actions of this president? Is that what you’re asking?

MS. LEONNIG: Yeah.

MR. GONZALES: Well, I think that they’re following probably a practice that I generally try to follow, and that is not being critical of my successors. I know how difficult the job of attorney general is. You’re going to get enough criticism and second-guessing by others. I, quite frankly, wouldn’t have appreciated, not that I would have put much stock in it, but I wouldn’t have appreciated criticism from a former attorney general based upon a decision that I made.

And I also know that today — let’s just take Merrick Garland, for example — Merrick Garland may be making some decisions that from the outside I look at and I’m puzzled, and I question it. Internally I question it. But I always remind myself that he has more information, there is more involved here that I just simply don’t know and can never know, as a normal citizen.

And so I try to be careful in, again, trying to analyze, over-analyze, second-guess or question decisions by certainly by the attorney general of the United States, and I think President Bush was of the same mold, and I suspect that’s why you may not have heard much from the former presidents.

And, of course, I know George W. Bush better than any of our other living presidents, but I have to believe, knowing what I do of the man, that he’s concerned as well. And I think the reason you haven’t heard him speak out is, you know, out of respect for the office, quite frankly, out of respect for the Department of Justice. But that may change, but I just don’t know.

MS. LEONNIG: I asked the question not to put you on the line and on the spot for your former president, George W. Bush. I asked you because you make the point that if democracy is in the crosshairs that you’ve decided not to stand on the sidelines, and I wonder when former presidents will also move off of them.

MR. GONZALES: Well, you’ll have to ask them. I will just remind you that Bill Barr, who was the attorney general for President Trump, has certainly gotten off the sidelines and sort of made his views known.

So, you know, I think we also have confidence, or at least we’re hopeful, that the American people will, I don’t want to say come to their senses, but will realize what is at stake here, and at the end of the day, you know, we all do what we think is right and is consistent with the tradition and values of this country.

MS. LEONNIG: I’m going to try to get in two questions as quickly as I can, Judge. One is you, in your op-ed, squash the argument that the indictment brought about Donald Trump’s effort to overturn to election was an attack on his free speech or anyone else’s free speech. Explain for our viewers if you can.

MR. GONZALES: Well, I mean, not all speech is protected. You know, nothing in the Constitution really is absolute. For example, I think the example that I’ve heard others give, which I think is a good, simple example, is that if you tell someone to murder someone else, that speech, that communication is not privileged. It is not protected by the First Amendment. And so this notion that everything that is said here is protected by free speech, by the First Amendment, is just not true.

Now, I will say this. It is true that the courts do give speech, related political speech, the greatest protection. There is no question about that. But I think in this particular case, given the facts as I understand them, I don’t think the free speech argument, the First Amendment protection argument, is going to successful.

MS. LEONNIG: I’m going to try to get one last question in, and it’s from a viewer, Kathy in Colorado, “How do you think history books will narrate this era for the next generations to come?”

MR. GONZALES: Well, a lot will depend, I think, on the outcome, outcome of the trials, and maybe the biggest test, the biggest indicator will be the outcome of the next election, assuming Donald Trump is a candidate in the next election. So it just remains to be seen. I have great confidence in the American people, and at the end of the day that we are going to be okay as a country.

MS. LEONNIG: I enjoyed our discussion so much. We are just out of time and we will have to leave it there. Former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, thank you so much for being with us.

MR. GONZALES: Thanks for having me.

MS. LEONNIG: And thanks to all of you for watching. To learn more about our upcoming programs please go to washingtonpostlive.com. I’m Carol Leonnig. Thanks again for being with us today.

[End recorded session]

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