Man, I love New Yorkers. They are the best Americans ever, the only real Americans.
And do you know why?
Because they indicted Donald Trump!
Yes folks, for those of you living under a rock for the last few days, Donald Trump was finally indicted last week. It seems (keep in mind that the indictment is still sealed) that the inciting incident here is the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels so that she wouldn’t reveal her affair with Donald during Trump’s presidential campaign.
So, first off, Ms. Daniels, you have a terrible taste in men. No offence.
Second, there’s a few problems with that story. The first is that, technically, the hush money is a federal campaign violation, not a state one, and a campaign violation that the feds opted not to prosecute to boot. The second, to my mind, are the reports that Donny is facing thirty plus charges of falsifying business records.
I don’t care how much you pay off a porn star, they aren’t worth thirty criminal charges!
So what gives? Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is, by all accounts, a smart guy with long experience both as a prosecutor and with tangling with Donald Trump personally. It seems unlikely to me, therefore, that he would pursue criminal charges he didn’t think he could make stick.
Remember, in the American legal system there are two separate but equal… I mean, you need to convince twelve jurors that a crime was committed beyond reasonable doubt and they need to vote unanimously to convict. The bar is high (or should be; there are a number of dirty tricks prosecutors and cops use to bamboozle juries) and prosecutors will decline to prosecute cases they don’t think they can win.
So what is motivating Bragg here?
Republicans, fascists that they are, have suggested that this is all political. That Bragg, as a ‘progressive’ DA is out to get the conservative Donald Trump.
We can dismiss this for a few reasons. The first is, like I said, prosecutors don’t like to chase cases they can’t win, especially political ones. Prosecutions are expensive, the Manhattan DA’s office already has a lot of cases on its plate, and if Bragg loses a case this politically charged, that’s pretty much it for his career. He will be exposed as a moron, a political clown, to everybody and nobody will vote for him in the next DA election. Bragg needs a case he can hang his hat on, something with real meat on the bones.
There’s also the fact that Trump isn’t conservative. A fascist, an authoritarian, and a reactionary sure. But he doesn’t have any actual political opinions beyond ‘lashing out at people I don’t like.’ I know conservatism isn’t the most coherent ideology out there, people, but there’s a little more to it than that!
Other Republicans, again being raging fascists and anti-Semites, have suggested that this is some sinister plot on the part of George Soros, a random billionaire the Republicans have decided to pick because he’s Jewish and supports ‘progressive’ policies. As opposed to, say, the Koch Brothers.
Here’s the thing: George Soros is largely irrelevant to the functioning of American democracy. Yes, he donated to a group that donated to Bragg, but he and Bragg had no contact. Second, despite claims that billionaire’s are using their money to ruin American democracy from both left and right, the truth is more complicated. Politicians are not coin-operated robots that do whatever you want if you give them money, they often take money from donors with competing aims and most politicians are adept at milking money from their donors while giving vague and empty promises in return.
Remember, that FiveThirtyEight study showed politicians are good at keeping promises, not whether or not the promises have anything substantial to them. Bragg and other ‘progressive’ DA’s can make all the promises they want on the campaign, and will probably follow through on most of them. But most of those promises are going to be vague, low-hanging fruit or something that was already in the works anyway. Most politicians are not FDR and don’t have the political base he did to pursue those kinds of changes anyway.
I’m all for limiting billionaire’s access to politicians, but we need to be realistic. Money is not power and politicians prey on their donors as much as the other way around. It’s a complex ecosystem, not an army of billionaires giving marching orders.
That brings us to the charges. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight made a good point on their recent emergency podcast that a lot of those alleged thirty plus charges are probably junk. He compared it to long Twitter threads, where most of the tweets are bunk with four good ones buried in there, but blanketing a suspect with as many charges as you can is a time-honoured prosecutorial strategy. The idea is you build a safety net; there’s only one or two charges you really want, but you might not have the evidence for them or the jury might be traditionally reluctant to pursue such serious charges. So you give them lesser charges as an option to go for.
So on that point, I agree with Mr. Silver. The number of charges don’t matter that much. However, I also disagree a bit. As I pointed out above, hush payments to a porn star don’t equal thirty or more charges of business fraud, I don’t care how strong you want your safety net to be. So those thirty plus charges suggest to me that Bragg uncovered further illicit dealings from Trump while investigating the Stormy Daniels matter.
This makes the most sense to me. As we discussed, the Stormy Daniels issue is primarily a federal one, DA’s don’t like pursuing cases they don’t think they can win, thirty plus counts of fraud is a lot of charges coming from one or two hush money payments, etc. If this were just about Daniels, the case would be pathetically weak, to quote William Barr.
However, if we assume that Bragg found further acts of wrong doing while investigating the Daniels matter, then case gets much stronger. He could have found an actual crime against the state of New York (so something that’s actually within his jurisdiction), it accounts for the number of charges, it’s more likely to stand up to jury, etc.
Donald Trump has a long history of evading legal accountability for his actions, and he’s been violating the law for a long time. My only hope is that this the beginning of the end for Donald. The Manhattan prosecution is the least of Donald’s legal troubles: he’s facing federal investigations into his handling of classified documents, the Jan. 6th incident, investigations in Georgia over his attempts to overturn the election there, there’s another tax fraud investigation in Manhattan along with a civil lawsuit from the state attorney alleging fraud more generally, etc.
These can and should sink Trump to the bottom of New York Bay. The man is a fascist, racist, authoritarian nutjob who represents all that is wrong with America. His continued existence is a threat not only to American democracy, but to the world at large.
Here’s hoping that New Yorkers finally break his aura of invincibility down and end that orange menace permanently.