Trump Is Living Proof That Some Elites Are Above the Law as We Know It
The exasperating wait for Donald Trump’s legal comeuppance – in any of the many cases he faces – has become a siege that seems to take as much a deep pool of patience for listening to color commentators who treat it as sports observers as it has for the law to finally act.
The rainbow of legal missteps from the very serious to what seem relatively ludicrous incidents reflect Trump’s vast capacity to put himself before the law. It is a continuing suspension of belief that one person in public life could own such a varied portfolio of legal thin ice – and yet, keep surviving even to return for our top political office as a credible candidate for our top political office.
Disclosure this week that Manhattan District Attorney Alan Bragg is presenting evidence to a grand jury towards any of several possible new, criminal charges stemming from the handling of alleged payoffs to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 have rekindled the Trump Legal Watch – or, if you are of a mind, the Witch Hunt. Just why the timing remains a mystery, since Bragg seemed to have flinched in the past, but perhaps there is some new corroborating evidence to consider.
The case of possible campaign finance law violations and business fraud now goes back on the active watch list along with the Fulton County, Georgia elections law violations case, multiple personal lawsuits that include a defamation case over alleged sexual assault charges, continuing troubles for the Trump Organization, possible obstruction of justice criminal charges in the Mar-a-Lago documents case and the host of criminal issues emerging from organizing and inciting the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection attempt. It comes as video surfaced of an embarrassed Trump relying on the Fifth Amendment during a deposition in a civil suit about fraud allegations during a deposition in a civil suit more than 400 times.
There are more cases that could and should arise from fraudulent tax returns. There are the reports, too, from last week about possible financial crimes involving Trump that former Atty. Gen. Bill Barr and special prosecutor John Durham tripped across but failed to follow. There are still unfollowed obstruction of justice findings from the Robert S. Mueller Jr. special counsel report that seem to have been dropped entirely, as well as any number of ethical reviews.
The Endless Wait
Throughout it all, we have come to rely on both the persistent Trump defense that he is being unfairly hounded though thoroughly innocent and an overly cautious set of prosecutors who appear loathe to indicting a former president. For sheer chutzpah, Trump has kept most of his legal challengers at bay – his Trump Organization was found in violation of New York state tax fraud – and is out campaigning like it’s 2015 all over again.
Moreover, Trump’s self-declared victimhood continues to draw campaign money and enough political support to force that all take him as a serious candidate again.
And, so, we have Trump being resurrected to Twitter and Facebook, at least on probationary status, we have constant political polling and the beginnings – two years out from a presidential election – of public campaigning. All of it is coming with new piles of news articles and hours of television blather that seek to make sense of America possibly voting for a man who is always on the cusp of being indicted for crimes that include trying to overthrow the very government he says he wants to lead again.
It has led to a subset of articles arguing that we should not be treating Trump as if he is an ordinary candidate. Rather than asking the expected and predictable horse-race questions of voters, we should be asking and reminding all that we have as a first-rank candidate for whom we are awaiting simultaneous criminal charges on an unprecedented scale.
Of course, as a legal matter, the twice-impeached, twice-cleared Trump has not been charged, and he would be presumed innocent unless a court found him guilty. As a matter of American values, it seems less than sane that we would have Donald Trump as a first-choice candidate for any public office even now. Is unethical – likely illegal – behavior not a breach of qualification for office any longer?
That we cannot deal with the fabrications of a congressman who has invented an entire persona seems to suggest that ethics don’t matter. We’re about to find out whether even indictment or conviction can still allow for election.
Apart from all else, the clock is ticking, aging the possibility of criminal cases and witnesses to wrongdoing. Clearly, prosecutors who consider charges against Trump know that they need slam-dunk evidence lined up before they file; an indictment that cannot lead to conviction is almost worse than no charges at all.
If prosecutors have found no valid case, they should just say so.
We understand that process is difficult, and that there are legitimate procedural hang-ups in the justice system – as well as a constant campaign of delay from Trump.
Meanwhile, it is the wait itself and the constancy of would-be criminal charges that is ailing us.
But Trump is living proof that some elites are above the law as we know it. While thousands have faced trial for participating in Jan. 6, none of the plotters have yet faced accountability. While Trump attorney Michael Cohen has been convicted, imprisoned, and freed already for delivery of the hush-money check to Stormy Daniels, there has been no connection to Trump himself until this grand jury was called.
While we wait for Justice figures to act through investigations, congressional hearings, impeachment trials, we’ve seen the spread of sloppiness in the handling of classified documents spread to Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence, as one example. Though the cases involving them and Trump differ substantially because of Trump’s resistance to cooperate, the aging of the case has allowed for public attention to slip from a desire to hold Trump accountable to resignation that all politicians apparently are tainted. The wait is bolstering the Trump claims of a witch hunt.
It is two years since the Capitol riot. It is almost seven years since 2016 and Stormy Daniels. Where is the equal standing before the law?