BY RICHARD C. GROSS
“Trump is a national disgrace and an international pariah.”
— Colin Powell (1937–2021), secretary of state (2001–2005), Joint Chiefs chairman (1989–1993)
Got him! Maybe.
To get him good, New York state could link the bookkeeping fraud charges to state tax laws to make the case before 12 jurors that Trump falsified business records and in doing so violated state election laws.
“It turns out the indictment also includes a claim that Trump falsified records to commit a state tax crime,” Rebecca Roiphe, a New York Law School professor, told The New York Times. “That’s a much simpler charge that avoids the potential pitfalls.”
Prosecutors have leveled no fewer than 34 felony counts of Trump monkeying with his business records so he allegedly could hide his sexual dalliances from the voters in the 2016 election. Thirty-four counts! If convicted, it could mean a maximum sentence of four years in prison for each one.
No wonder Trump appeared virtually silent and faded orange on his arrival and departure from the Manhattan Criminal Court, far downtown overlooking Foley Square. He at one point raised his right arm with a fist, a kind of Heil, Trump.
He’s not only the first sitting and former president to be impeached twice but the first one to be charged with a crime. Quite a record. Should make his family proud of him. And he’ll go down in the history books as America’s worst president. By far.
Yet he’s running for a second term in 2024, even though he falsely insisted he won that in 2020. How some forget. Perhaps the biggest shock for me in all of this is how many of his supporters still back him. They believe everything he says even though he’s a known pathological liar. Incredible.
But, hey, let’s not kid ourselves. An everyday Joe charged with 34 counts of a felony would be looking at the world through bars, not gloating about getting away with it. But Trump? What judge in this angry country will dare sentence Trump, a former president, to prison?
Of course, the sane among us all know he’s been disgraced as never before, even if he doesn’t see it that way. It’s sad, really, for us and the country. But I don’t pity Trump. He doesn’t deserve empathy. It’s been too much, living with him for seven years.
Both Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg and Judge Juan Merchan, the presiding judge in the Trump case, have received death threats in the form of calls, emails and letters, NBC News reported. They’re probably from Trump’s supporters.
Don’t expect any speedy results from the court. Remember: Trump learned his lessons about getting away with stuff — and there allegedly has been a lot of stuff — on the knee of infamous mobster lawyer Roy Cohn. He also was Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s lawyer.
Cohn, who died in 1986, taught Trump to “deny, deny, deny” and to stall court proceedings until they fade away under the expiration of the statute of limitations. Or when plaintiffs suing him no longer financially could afford to fight his appeals to higher courts.
America should brace itself for many years of Trump in a courthouse and on the media because he faces the probability of three more serious charges:
His attempt to overturn the election in Georgia by asking its secretary of state to find “11,780 votes;” for allegedly instigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol that interfered with the certification of Joe Biden as president; and Trump’s taking more than 300 classified documents to his home in Florida, some labeled top secret.
In addition, Trump faces several civil lawsuits. They include the New York attorney general suing him for wrongfully increasing the value of his real estate holdings; Capitol Police officers and Democratic lawmakers suing him for inciting the Capitol mob that harmed them physically and emotionally; and a woman writer who is suing him for defamation.
Trump should put away his golf clubs because he’s going to be one busy dude.
I’ll bet anything that Trump will appeal any convictions way up to the Supremes. And we know who are these conservatives, three of whom are Trump appointees — Neal Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Trump is counting on them to give him a pass. They haven’t always.
Legal experts and pundits seem to doubt whether the charges in this indictment will lead to a conviction on any one of them. They appear to agree that this indictment is the weakest of all of the potential cases that could be brought against Trump.
Nevertheless, he successfully evaded prosecution for many years in connection with ignoring the law as if rules are not for him. The indictment and his arraignment illustrated in no uncertain terms that the rules do matter, even for a former president.
As president, Trump ran roughshod over the highest office in the land, treating it as his license to do whatever he pleased, from earning money from foreign officials who stayed in his Washington hotel to gain his favor and his failure to put his businesses in trust.
Now the chickens have come home to roost, as the old saying goes. And their eggs are being harvested.
Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East, the Pentagon and was foreign editor of United Press International, was the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.