We all know Trump did it, but what must matter is the letter of the law
U.S. President Donald Trump stands in the colonnade as he is introduced to speak at the White House on Jan. 19, 2018. Photo by Mark Wilson | Getty Images
On Thursday, a Manhattan grand jury voted to criminally indict former President Donald Trump on more than 30 counts of business fraud, including his alleged effort to conceal a plot to pay porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about their past affair ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
We all know he did it.
The question is whether it can be proven in court, and if and when that happens — put your money on when — if Trump will actually be punished.
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The charges against him are historic news, of course, because no U.S. president has ever been indicted for a crime before.
Richard Nixon came close, but was pardoned by President Gerald Ford before he could be charged with “bribery, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and obstruction of a criminal investigation” for his role covering up the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in D.C.
But is anyone really surprised that this is how Trump will go down in history?
Criminal activity follows this guy around the way clouds of dust trail after the Charlie Brown comic-strip character Pigpen.
A story in the Washington Post last fall reported: “Eleven allies of and advisers to former president Donald Trump have been convicted or pleaded guilty in recent years to various offenses, with their total sentences nearing 30 years of imprisonment.”
Lawbreaking is so common in Trumpworld that several of his criminally prone cronies have become household names.
Former Breitbart News editor and all-around white supremacist Steve Bannon was caught pocketing big bucks in a scheme that duped contributors out of millions to fund a mostly fake border wall project. Trump pardoned Bannon, who once served as a senior White House advisor, before he could be sentenced.
Bannon has since been indicted and convicted again, this time for ignoring a congressional subpoena. He’s appealing his sentence.
Roger Stone was sentenced to three years in prison for “impeding Congress’s investigation of Russian election interference.” Trump ultimately pardoned Stone, too, and his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and, just for good measure, his father-in-law, Charles Kushner.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s ex-personal attorney who paid Daniels and another woman to keep quiet about their trysts with his boss, allegedly on Trump’s direct orders, served three years on fraud charges tied to the payoffs. Cohen is expected to be one of the top witnesses on the Manhattan fraud charges against Trump.
It’s not that hanging around crooks definitively means you’re a crook, too. But you gotta ask: “These are the people Trump hires?”
Frankly, who Trump cheats on his wife with and whether he was caught illicitly paying them to keep their mouth shut is the least of his legal woes.
As we speak:
- New York Attorney General Leticia James is investigating whether the Trump Organization, the former president’s family business, committed massive business fraud by, depending on the circumstances, inflating or deflating the value of his real estate.
- In Georgia, the top prosecutor in Fulton County will soon decide if Trump will be charged with trying to coerce election officials to alter the state’s 2020 presidential election results.
- The U.S. Justice Department wants to know why Trump walked off with thousands of classified documents when he left the White House and then refused, despite repeated requests by the feds, to give the documents back.
- Then there’s the matter of Trump allegedly conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government by orchestrating the deadly January 2021 assault by thousands of pro-Trump supporters on the Capitol.
Again, we know he did all of that.
But, love him or hate him — and I personally detest the man — under the letter of the law, Trump is innocent until proven guilty. And that’s a good thing, because it says a lot about who and what we still are as a nation.
It says that, under our constitution, Trump, just like any other American, is entitled to due process and deserves to be treated by our judicial system fairly, equitably and without prejudice.
We know that doesn’t always happen. U.S. prisons are largely filled with Black and Brown people — not because they’re more prone to criminal behavior but because of systemic discrimination that plays out in everything from traffic stops to police shootings, conviction rates and sentencing.
In Trump’s case, however, given the stakes, the system must work as intended.
It shouldn’t matter that millions of us find Trump repulsive, racist, misogynistic and utterly incapable of feeling shame for virtually any wrongdoing he’s ever committed.
It also shouldn’t matter that he used to be president, or is a rich, white male, or that he has tens of millions of devoted followers who agree with his incessant lies that everyone is out to get him — especially the Democrats.
None of that should matter when it comes to prosecuting Trump on the allegations he now faces.
And if he’s tried and found not guilty on any of those charges, he should walk free.
But if Trump is convicted in our courts, he must be punished.
A lot of people say that indicting a president would make us look like a “banana republic.”
Precisely the opposite is true.
If Trump is convicted of committing civil or criminal crimes and we don’t punish him, we might as well call it a day for our so-called great American experiment, because that would be the beginning of the end of equal justice in America.
Especially since we all know he did it.
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James E. Garcia