On the contrary, the case against Trump is really quite strong and, if justice is to be served, should result in a criminal conviction and jail time. While falsified business records (even 34!) are only misdemeanors under New York law, the fact that they were in furtherance of a conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election is a pretty serious matter. Untested is whether that will hold up as a crime under New York State law.
No matter. There is another crime that has been extensively tested under New York law: defrauding state tax authorities. Having falsely labeled as “legal expenses” the hush money Trump ordered paid to Ms. Stormy Daniels, and the “catch-and-kill” money he paid to Ms. Karen McDougal, to buy their silence about their Trump trysts in the run-up to the election Trump then claimed them as a deduction from his 2016 income taxes. Campaign expenses, which these payments actually were, are non-deductible. This is a felony. Al Capone, another notorious crime boss with countless crimes to his name, was finally brought to account for tax law violations.
Despite the current stürm und drang over the pros and cons of this particular case, it will soon be put in the rear view mirror by the other indictments coming down the pike. The Fulton County, Georgia case, where Trump was at least twice captured on tape attempting to suborn state election officials to overturn the 2020 election results, may see an indictment as early as May, according to sources. There is no ambiguity there regarding Trump’s criminal actions and intent. The case, which also involves fake electors, is about as close to a slam-dunk as it is possible to get.
Speaking of slam-dunks, the Mar-a-Lago documents case is also looming. Again, no uncertainty about Trump’s criminality here. He took documents with him from the White House that were not his to take. They included a host of highly classified documents, some dealing with nuclear secrets. Following his theft of the documents, he resisted returning them to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for a year-and-a-half, leaving the government no choice but to have the FBI seize them. Moreover, he appears to have lied to his own attorneys so that they would certify that all the documents had been turned over to NARA. This adds an obstruction of justice count to the rap sheet.
That leaves the anchor leg, the biggest Trump crime of them all: his conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election and illegally continue in power after January 20, 2021. This is beyond any doubt the biggest crime ever committed by any American elected leader in our history. In every other country where such a coup d’état has been attempted, the punishment has been prison…or worse.
By the time all of these indictments and arraignments have ensued, there won’t be much hand-wringing over what took place in lower Manhattan on April 4.
Sadly, the wheels of justice turn slowly. While it is possible that trials in these cases will launch before the 2024 election, they are unlikely to conclude before then. This could lead to a nightmare scenario where Trump is elected and assumes office before verdicts are rendered. That would probably mean one of two terrible outcomes: (1) the 1973 Justice Department Memorandum Opinion stating that a sitting President cannot be indicted or criminally prosecuted would kick in and suspend all such trials; or (2) Trump would simply pardon himself.
The need for speed has never been so important.
April 9, 2023