The news that Doug Jones was President-elect Joe Biden‘s choice to be the next U.S. attorney general quickly drew attention to the former Alabama senator’s successful prosecution of former KKK members who bombed a historic Black church in Birmingham that killed four little Black girls in 1963.
As word spread across social media, people were not only pointing to how Jones brought two white supremacists to justice decades after their act of domestic terrorism but also to how he could draw upon that experience to prosecute another suspected KKK member: Donald Trump. That very real prosecutorial history and record on race and civil rights was likely to endear — or, at least, ingratiate — Jones with critics who have been looking for Biden to appoint more Black people to his cabinet that the president-elect has pledged will “look like America.”
On that fateful day more than 57 years ago, four Klan members planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite at the 16th Street Baptist Church, killing 14-year-olds Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley and 11-year-old Denise McNair. Nearly two dozen others were injured in the blast that became known as the Birmingham Church Bombing.
Appointed by President Bill Clinton to be U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in 1997, Jones went was able to investigate the FBI’s evidence against the bombing suspects; evidence that had been declassified after decades of remaining private. Jones, using that declassified evidence, moved forward with an iron-clad prosecution of the two surviving bombers. Jones’ case led to the ultimate conviction of Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry.
That commitment to racial justice in the late 1990s — before doing so became so popular, especially by a white man from Alabama — was probably one of the deciding factors for Biden to nominate Jones to be the nation’s top cop.
And while Biden has been downplayed questions about intentions to have Trump investigated by the attorney general’s Department of Justice, choosing Jones might be an answer within itself, what with his own experience of not just prosecuting but also prosecuting former KKK members — the same kind of white supremacists that the outgoing president has refused to disavow and defended on numerous occasions.
Jones has also had another experience with Black people that is also hard to forget: his election to the U.S.Senate in 2018. That was when Black women, in particular, organized and all but secured his victory against Republican Roy Moore, an accused pedophile. Exit polling showed that 97% of Black women voters cast ballots for Jones. Black men voters were no slouches either as 92% of them supported Jones, too.
With Black women making up nearly 14% of Alabama’s population, they accounted for an outsized 18% of all voters in that crucial midterm election. In other words, that was more than 29% of Black women’s proportion of the state’s population.
Considering that truth, Jones may feel a debt of gratitude to Black people; Black people who polling and surveys show have consistently and resoundingly been in favor of prosecuting Trump both while he was in office and after he leaves it.
Biden has said prosecuting Trump would damage any chance of achieving unity. However, on the flip side, not prosecuting him could also have the same effect and risk further alienating Black Americans who have been on the wrong side of Trump’s racist rhetoric for decades.
Either way, that still leaves Trump’s alleged violations of the law to be dealt with somehow. Whether it’s for tax fraud, violating campaign finance laws by paying off a porn star, enriching himself and his family through the office of the presidency or even his current pardoning spree, there is no shortage of alleged crimes Trump could be charged with. The real question is whether any of the charges could hold up in a court of law, let alone result in convictions.
It’s another story on the state level, though. That’s where New York State Attorney General Letitia James just might be waiting for Trump to leave office as her investigation into the president’s suspicious dealings with Deutsche Bank and Investors Bank related to the financing of four major Trump Organization projects and a failed effort to buy the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.
“We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family as well,” James said last year.