I have written many articles over the past few years about Donald Trump’s criminal culpability and have always believed that if he was ever held accountable for anything – whether it be his shady business dealings or the many crimes against the Constitution he committed while he was president – the nation may never recover. Trump’s corruption is so blatant that if he gets away with it, it’s impossible to see how there can be any more claim to equal justice under the law.
That said, I’ve also written more than once that I’m just not optimistic.
Trump is flooding the area with so many bizarre and unconventional behaviors for a public figure that it becomes difficult to discern the difference between what is criminal, what is unethical, and what is just performance. In fact, his behavior is so extraordinary that I think it convinced many of his followers that he shouldn’t be guilty of doing anything nefarious just because he’s so open about it. It’s a good trick.
I suspect it scares the justice system as well. He cultivated a combative public persona long before entering politics. There was ample evidence that he was doing extremely corrupt business, ranging from unsuspecting brand scams to money laundering to clandestine deals with terrorist states for years. But there was a feeling that no one could be as ridiculously flamboyant as him and still be a criminal. His clowning was a form of shield.
As a politician, he traded that for something much more powerful: tens of millions of committed supporters who, in turn, bullied the entire Republican establishment and allowed Trump to retreat. of them indictments. And then he leveraged that power to incite a violent insurrection in which those supporters stormed the Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power.
He has already threatened to use this leverage again. At a January rally in Texas, he lamented the legal inquiries that plague him:
If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we have in this country the biggest protests we’ve ever had in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere, because our country and our elections are corrupt. They are trying to put me in jail. These prosecutors are vicious and horrible people. They are racists and they are very sick. They are mentally ill. They are suing me without any protection of my rights by the Supreme Court or most other courts.
If you think it’s odd that he calls the prosecutors investigating him racists, it’s because he references New York Attorney General Tish James, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. , and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Wallace, all of whom are black. He doesn’t use a dog whistle, he uses a megaphone. He wants everyone to hear him, especially these prosecutors.
Related: Trump Not Faring Well in Trump Organization Civil Fraud Case
As far as we know, the civil case being sued by James over Trump’s business dealings is ongoing, as is the investigation into Trump’s lobbying campaign to get officials to ‘find’ enough votes in Georgia to overturn. the 2020 election. But the Manhattan criminal investigation, with which James’ office was cooperating, apparently fizzled, prompting the resignation of the two prosecutors who led the investigation last month.
This case was considered by many to be one of the most important because it examined some of the practices used by Trump to fraudulently obtain loans from banks by excessively inflating his assets and then cheating on his taxes by understating them. Before leaving office, the former DA indicted Trump’s chief operating officer, Allen Weisselberg, and was expected to turn over state evidence and testify against his boss. That didn’t happen, leading many legal observers to assume that without him they couldn’t prove Trump knowingly committed fraud. Trump doesn’t write anything and has been known to speak in a godfather-style code, so without a first-hand witness, it was thought they probably didn’t have the goods.
The New York Times published the letter of resignation from one of the prosecutors Mark F. Pomerantz this week which throws cold water on all these hypotheses. We learned from previous reports that when Bragg took office after the last election, he hadn’t been particularly interested in the case and pretty much decided not to pursue it from the start. Pomerantz’s letter makes it clear that he thought otherwise – and that Trump committed “numerous crimes.”
RELATED: Former Prosecutor Says Trump Guilty of ‘Numerous’ Crimes
Pomerantz wrote, “The team that investigated Mr. Trump has no doubts whether he committed any crimes – he did,” and he said he and Carey R. Dunne, the other lead prosecutor in the investigation who resigned with him, had planned to charge Trump with falsifying his financial statements, which is a crime in New York. He said that “whatever the risks of prosecuting, I am confident that a failure to prosecute will pose far greater risks in terms of public confidence in the proper administration of justice.”
According to the Times, Bragg did not believe he could prove that Trump had “knowingly” inflated his assets, evidence of another of his shrewd maneuvers to evade justice.
Want a daily recap of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.
Too many people believe that Trump is so eccentric that he probably believes every lie he tells and has no idea when he is behaving criminally. I’m sure there’s some truth to that, but I don’t know why it should matter. The man had the most powerful job on earth. I think the law should expect him to know the difference between reality and fantasy.
Both Bragg and Pomerantz are the best the American legal profession has to offer. Pomerantz is a white-collar crime expert with years of experience as a federal prosecutor. Bragg is also qualified, with similar experience as an assistant United States attorney and an assistant attorney general for New York. There is no reason to believe that either is corrupt.
But it’s easy to imagine that, despite the fact that this concerns Trump’s private business dealings, Bragg considered the risk of taking on what is inherently a political affair, thought about the immense Republican backlash, and thought it just wasn’t worth it. for the crime of falsifying financial statements which is apparently common among the wealthy and the brazen. And I’m sure it hasn’t escaped Bragg’s notice that for all these years Trump has threatened to ‘lock up’ Hillary Clinton, his opponents have shouted that putting political rivals in jail is something only banana republics do . Is there any chance that Trump and his minions aren’t throwing that exact line at them shamelessly?
In my mind, none of this is an excuse, although I can understand the dilemma.
Trump is a corrupt politician, a criminal businessman and a danger to our democratic system. I think it’s outrageous that he continues to escape serious consequences for all of this. But I fear that even after all we have witnessed and continue to learn about Trump’s assault on our democracy and the threat it poses, there still isn’t the will to stop it. . It is clear that a January 6 Committee report or a civil case that costs him money and time will not do the job. Hopefully someone, somewhere has the guts to hold him legally accountable.