I am not a fan of President Donald Trump and personally detest his moral and ethical failings — his lies, greed, lack of empathy. However, none of these boorish behaviors rises to the level of criminal offense; they are simply examples of his selfish, narcissistic personality.

On the other hand, his call to the Georgia secretary of state urging him to "find" 11,780 votes may have crossed the line from repugnant behavior into criminal conduct ("Trump tells Ga. official to 'find' votes," front page, Jan. 4). The Georgia penal code prohibits encouraging or coercing a state official to commit fraud, and any interpretation of the transcript of that call would conclude the president was pressuring the secretary of state to manufacture enough votes to secure victory.

After Trump leaves office I hope the Georgia attorney general will convene a grand jury to determine if this behavior rises to the level of criminal conduct and, if so, indict Trump for election fraud. We tolerated his ethical lapses but must draw the line at criminal behavior. We must make it clear to future officeholders that while you are allowed your own personal leadership style, you are not allowed your own personal legal code. You cannot flout the law. The message we must send to every citizen and officeholder in this country is, "Do not violate election laws, because if you do, we will come after you with the full power and authority of the judicial system."

G. Michael Schneider, Minneapolis
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Another perfect phone call, including proof why he should have been impeached for the first one.

Dale Jernberg, Minneapolis

ELECTORAL VOTE COUNT

Think of your legacy, lawmakers

Legends, myths, philosophy, the great religions and human history all teach us that it is better to lose honorably than to win dishonorably. Even Rascal Flatts sings that what matters is how they remember you when you're gone. Yet learned men whom I believe are honorable, like Sens. Lindsay Graham, Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, Ron Johnson and others are willing to attach their reputations and legacies to the dishonorable actions of a defeated leader in exchange for short-term political gains ("Congress opens as GOP rift deepens," front page, Jan. 4). A quick read of history would remind them that such a move never pays off in the long run.

By all accounts, they are taking a calculated risk that they can secure the loyalty of President Donald Trump's followers without imperiling the stability and integrity of our democracy. But myth and history is also filled with irony, and the irony here is that their actions have already done the damage they seek to avoid, to our country and to themselves.

Meg Luhrs, St. Croix Falls, Wis.
• • •

The Republican lawmakers planning to challenge the election during the Jan. 6 joint session cite pressure from their constituents and the fact that 40% of Americans believe the election was rigged. The only reason this is so is because of Trump's relentless, baseless claims and the fact that most GOP lawmakers lack the spine to set the record straight. Elected officeholders must represent their constituents, but it's also incumbent on them to demonstrate leadership when circumstances dictate. (Remember when John McCain corrected the town hall attendee who asserted that then-Sen. Barack Obama was an Arab?) The silence from most Republican leaders regarding the fraudulent election claims is an overt abdication of leadership and the actions of the gang of senators and representatives challenging the election in the absence of any compelling evidence borders on sedition. When the book is written on the fall of our democracy, an early chapter will be devoted to this shameful group.

Doug Norris, Brooklyn Park

COLLEGE DEBT

Here's how some students have none

Claire Hilgeman argues in her Jan. 2 commentary that "There's no need for students to take on so much debt" (Opinion Exchange). I want to echo and underscore her view. For many middle- and upper-middle class folks, complaining about undergraduate student debt sounds like grousing about the monthly payments on the Mercedes, or how the price of single malt Scotch has gotten out of hand. For most households, paying for college reduces to priorities, choices and planning.

In the last years I taught at the University of Minnesota, each fall I would ask a class of 55 juniors, seniors and graduate students, "How many of you have no college debt?" About half the hands went up. Among the other half jaws dropped; they looked amazed. I then asked a few to explain how they managed college with no debt. They worked all summer and saved their money, then worked part-time during the school year to pay expenses. Some had taken advantage of Minnesota's Post Secondary Education Options (PSEO) program, earning college credits in their final years of high school. They didn't own a car and used transit. They shared rent with several roommates, shopped at thrift stores, didn't drink, shopped for groceries and ate at home. They skipped spring breaks in Florida. One girl made most of her clothes; some got help with tuition from their families.

Community colleges and technical colleges in Minnesota offer genuine bargains, as Hilgeman points out. Minnesota's public universities are high-quality and although certainly not cheap (the University of Minnesota costs around $16,000 per year for in-state tuition, books, supplies and fees) have been accessible for many households that had planned and saved. Meanwhile, Minnesota's private colleges and universities provide significant tuition assistance for qualified students from low-income, low-wealth households. If students choose to enroll in distant, high-priced, brand-name schools they can't afford, that's their choice — but it's not a public-policy problem. Borrowing for postgraduate professional school is a separate matter.

For some years a sign hung in Willey Hall on the U's West Bank that read, "Live like a student today so you won't have to live like a student tomorrow." I'm sure whoever created that sign understood the advice they hoped to convey, but each time I saw the sign I wondered how many students understood the message.

John S. Adams, Minneapolis

BIRTHDAY CAKE

More sweet stories to share

The Star Tribune's recent article "A sweet surprise: Twin Cities volunteer 'Sprinkle Squad' bakes up birthday joy for children in need" (Inspired, Jan. 2) prompts a grateful response and a noteworthy addition. For over 15 years, St. Joseph's Home for Children was truly blessed to be the recipient of donated cakes from Cakes for a Cause, a volunteer group led by Terri Leckas, owner of Queen of Cakes in Edina. Now closed, St. Joe's and the memory of the kindness and generosity of a caring community still lingers. The term "icing on the cake" is a fitting one.

Cakes for a Cause deeply valued the needs and special circumstances of St. Joe's kids, many of whom came from poverty, abuse and neglect. Most had never enjoyed the birthday experience. Terri and her wonderful band of bakers placed considerable importance on fulfilling the cake wishes expressed by St. Joe's children. The effect was beautiful, delicious and magically therapeutic.

A St. Joe's birthday celebration was a joyous and unforgettable event. Gathered in one of the children's dorms, kids and youth counselors surrounded a special birthday child as a candlelit cake suddenly appeared. Everyone exuberantly sang "Happy Birthday" followed by loud cheers and supportive pats on the back. That child mattered, and then some. Terri Leckas, her Queen of Cakes staff, and their Cakes for a Cause made it happen. Those cherished moments remain today — a priceless and loving legacy.

Mary Schoelch, Shoreview

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