Most of the country was shocked by Thursday's surprise announcement that former President Trump had been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, but amid all the commentary that followed, few takes garnered the type of scorn as the one tweeted by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who revealed a complete misunderstanding of the American justice system.
Responding to the news that the former commander-in-chief would face criminal charges in New York, Pelosi began, “The Grand Jury has acted upon the facts and the law.”
“No one is above the law, and everyone has the right to a trial to prove innocence,” the California Democrat added. “Hopefully the former President will peacefully respect the system, which grants him that right.”
While a nakedly partisan reaction such as Pelosi's is unfortunately par for the course when it comes to Democrats, what was at least somewhat startling was the unabashed manner in which her remark seemed to turn the American legal tradition completely on its head.
The congresswoman's mischaracterization of a fundamental tenet of American jurisprudence did not escape the notice of fellow members of the Twitterverse, however, with platform users jumping in to add context below her original message, as the Washington Times notes.
One such advisory read, “Ms. Pelosi mistakenly says Trump can prove his innocence at trial. Law in the U.S. assumes the innocence of a defendant, and the prosecution must prove guilt for a conviction” and linked to a page from Cornell Law School on the subject.
“A presumption of innocence means that any defendant in a criminal trial is assumed to be innocent until they have been proven guilty,” the cited page declares.
A number of high-profile political figures also entered the fray to blast Pelosi's post, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) lamenting, according to the Times, “This tweet – and the indictment it's praising – is a mockery of our justice system.”
“Pelosi says Trump has a 'right' to 'prove [his] innocence.' That's exactly BACKWARDS: Under our Constitution, you're innocent until proven guilty,” Cruz added.
Former Trump legal advisor Harmeet Dhillon agreed, tweeting simply, as the New York Post noted, “We don't have to prove our innocence in America, Mrs. Pelosi.”
House Republican Conference chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) emphasized, “Guilty until proven innocent is not how it works in America.” She added, “Although radical authoritarian Nancy Pelosi no longer holds her speaker's gavel, she is still considered a leader in the House Democrat Caucus.”
“Her comments on the unprecedented and corrupt indictment of former President Trump are deeply offensive, unAmerican, and completely counter to the American principles of equal justice under the law and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. These comments must be condemned by all,” Stefanik concluded.
Less diplomatic in his language was talk radio and Fox News personality Mark Levin who remarked, according to the Post, “Stalinist Pelosi. Prove innocent? It's innocent until proven guilty, moron. Or at least used to be.”
Given that Pelosi's tweet is still in place as of late Friday afternoon, one might be forgiven for inferring that even though it is in complete contravention of this country's enduring legal traditions, the standard articulated by the former speaker really is the one that now applies to her political opponents – at least, that is, while characters like Alvin Bragg, Merrick Garland, and the like remain in positions of power.