One of the first big tests a Biden administration will face is how aggressively it goes after the soon-to-be former President Trump and his family. In certain quarters, there is intense pressure to lay down the gauntlet in criminal and civil courts. Doing so, the experiences of other nations suggest, is bad for any democracy.

First Daughter Ivanka Trump made news this week for giving a five-hour-long deposition in an action brought by the D.C. attorney general relating to the last inauguration. The other big news was that the president spoke with his personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, about whether he could issue proactive pardons, or pardon himself.

It is fitting that an administration that came into power in an electoral environment closer to 1968 than any other should have an endgame imbued with Nixonian overtones.

Once Trump has left the White House and the new occupants settle in, will the Justice Department prosecute a sitting president, where former special counsel Robert Mueller said it couldn’t?

For a couple of years, I worked for the democracy and human rights watchdog Freedom House, which publishes an annual report on Freedom in the World, rating each country including the U.S. One of the major touchstones of states becoming more free was the ability not only to have a peaceful transfer of power, but also the absence of potentially politicized prosecutions of the vanquished opponent.

Indeed, the temptation to level vengeance in the name of justice is always strong, and goes back further than Hammurabi.

According to Freedom House, the U.S. is not in the top 10 most free countries in the world, and we’re barely in the top 20, wedged that we currently are as Number 17 between Lithuania and the United Arab Emirates. So yes, there is plenty of room for improvement in our own democratic fitness.

Sitting across the table from a woman named Yulia Tymoshenko, a twice-imprisoned politician last jailed after losing a presidential election in 2010, I remember being astonished at how this relative tiny figure who once persuasively fashioned herself on Joan of Arc had impacted her country. She’d been prime minister and built her own political force into a once major player.

The West quickly called her prosecution political, but she served several years before a revolution toppled the government that jailed her. While in prison, she was a symbol of her opponents’ primitiveness.

Some former communist countries in Eastern Europe passed “lustration” laws after the wall fell aimed at cleansing the body politic of anyone from the old regime. I’m not sure the science on this is totally settled, but wherever I’ve seen such approaches they were tragically overplayed.

De-Ba’athification in Iraq, for instance, was a terrible idea we ended up supporting somehow. Denying a class of people access to the town square because of the real or perceived sins of their associates is a dangerous thing to do, and ripe for abuse.

Talk of blacklists in Washington is mainly theatric since covert blacklists have long been a norm there, but formalizing such things, given our own spotty performance in the 1950s, is lunacy.

When George W. Bush took office in 2001, his team had to procure new keyboards for all White House computers, because the W's were plucked out.

I was there when he left office eight years later, and he insisted we all run the extra mile to make sure the transition was successful. I think that might be one of the reasons Michelle Obama is fond of him today.

There is a right way of doing this, and a less right way. With Trump himself becoming less of a factor with every passing day in choosing which way to go, it will be a political decision for the new administration.

The vice president-elect’s bona fides are as a prosecutor, do we start 2021 with the people versus the Trumps? Or do we decide to move on? I’m not talking about blanket immunity — if there are real and serious crimes they need to be addressed. But another investigation in search of crime is probably not the first thing America needs right now.

What we do need is to restore faith in our justice system, which has itself been on trial in recent years. We need to tackle the massive perception of unfairness. We have step back from being at each other’s throats. Going after the people who are leaving power hardly ranks among these more important tasks.

But because Trump is Trump, it is entirely possible he’ll do something in the next 60 days that will make me take all this back….

Sam Patten is a recovering political consultant who was raised in Knox County and worked for Maine’s last three Republican senators.