"One mark of modern despotism is the legal pursuit of former leaders by current office-holders, and the United States has wisely avoided this cycle throughout its history," Toobin wrote in the column, published Monday. "To be sure, this practice has its limits, and pervasive and obvious criminality by a President should be prosecuted regardless of this tradition. But if there's a close call, restraint is the better course."
The chief legal analyst for CNN explored five potential crimes Trump could be charged with criminally and dismissed each of them, including election fraud, conspiracy to defraud the government and inciting insurrection.
"Investigations of presidential wrongdoing, by Congress and others, are wise and even necessary," Toobin concluded. "But actual prosecutions are not, and Donald Trump should be the beneficiary of this tradition, even if he himself would surely not offer such grace to others."
The column was met with strong backlash from several legal and political observers.
Jeffrey Toobin has gone all Hannity on us. Time to start the boycott Toobin part against CNN
This is so sad when these clowns do this, just because they need some visibility.#BoycottToobin https://t.co/MXEFINhkyQ- Tomi T Ahonen (@tomiahonen) August 17, 2021
How can Jeffrey Toobin claim DOJ doesn't have enough evidence without knowing what evidence they have?
Attorney General Merrick Garland, don't prosecute Donald Trump (opinion) - CNN https://t.co/XpuxPzshov- Stephanie Ruhle (@SRuhle) August 17, 2021
Perhaps Zucker let Toobin stay on at CNN as long as he helps Zucker do Trump's bidding like CNN did in 2015-2016. "Keep the cameras on him till the eyeballs leave" https://t.co/OV34bNOKi5- Cheri Jacobus (@CheriJacobus) August 16, 2021
It's not just that Jeffrey Toobin's past behavior is objectionable. It's that he's now so desperate to keep his job at CNN, he's willing to throw away his journalistic integrity and play the role of dishonest contrarian in order to help the network artificially boost ratings.- Palmer Report (@PalmerReport) August 17, 2021
Toobin makes the remarkably wrong claim that "based on the available evidence, there is no basis to prosecute Trump & little reason" to investigate. Of course, he doesn't know all of the evidence DOJ possesses & "little reason" is enough to investigate. https://t.co/J1oqeSksIv- Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) August 17, 2021
If @JeffreyToobin's embarrassingly weak argument for sparing Trump from criminal investigation and possible prosecution is the best available - and it may well be - then AG Garland should be pursuing the former president and without hesitation right now. https://t.co/7EQK7KMjHV- Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) August 17, 2021
Toobin recently began appearing on the air and writing for CNN following a scandal stemming from an incident during which he exposed himself on a Zoom call with fellow staffers at The New Yorker last year.
In returning to the network in June, Toobin apologized for the incident and said he would try to "become the kind of person that people can trust again."