Responding to the indictment, Republicans are taking the position that no part of the criminal justice system can legitimately involve itself in anything Trump does, no matter what. Yes, they are in effect saying he’s above the law. And then they turn around and say that any legal action against Trump must be crushed and not allowed to go forward, in order to protect the “rule of law.” Seriously, I’ve seen them say that today.
Bill Barr, who is weirdly unable to learn from experience, has already rendered his astute legal judgment on the indictment even though he can’t possible know what’s in it.
‘The legal theory is pathetically weak. The case is held together by chicken wire and paper clips and rubber bands. It’s a lousy case. And it’s a shameful episode in our history where this local prosecutor is trying to effect the political process by bringing this case,’ Barr railed.
Barr is long past the point of caring about his reputation as an expert on law, I take it. He’s still just a shill for Trump. And Lindsey Graham practically melted down in hysteria on Fox News after the indictment. I have yet to see a single Republican of any stature step forward to say “Let’s let this process play out.” If it’s such a weak case, why are they so hysterical about it?
To be clear, the indictment itself might prove to be a weak case. Trump might be charged with falsifying business records, but to make that a felony, that falsification would have to conceal another crime. To fit that bill, prosecutors might try to classify the hush money payment as an improper campaign finance violation.
Some legal experts worry this constitutes a novel, untested legal theory. If the charges are weak, it might be reasonable to question the wisdom of the decision to bring them. On the other hand, there are reportedly more than 30 counts against Trump, so there may be grave charges we don’t know about.
Either way, these GOP responses do not leave discernible room for the possibility that the charges may prove far more damning than Republicans expect. It’s hard to see Republicans ever retreating to an acknowledgment that the process should run its course, enabling the truth to prevail.
By now it should be obvious even to Lindsey Graham — who is not stupid — that Trump is a terrible liability to his party. You’d think the Republican establishment would be quietly happy about Trump’s legal perils. You’d think they’d be a tad more cautious in their responses to the indictment, perhaps saying supportive things about Trump without committing to any judgments about the indictment they haven’t read yet. But no. Their reaction reminds me of this old Twilight Zone episode I’m sure you remember if you ever saw it.
Except for the most resolute of the Never Trumpers, no one on the Right seems able even to contemplate the remote possibility that Trump might actually be guilty of something. Take Erick Erickson, for example,
There is the camp that says this is designed to bolster Donald Trump’s nomination so they can beat him. Some of you are probably in that camp. You think the Democrats calculate that by indicting Trump, they’ll help him in the GOP primary. They think they can beat him in the general, and this indictment might push him across the finish line as the GOP nominee.
But the camp I’m in is that Alvin Bragg represents a wing of the Democrat Party that is on the short bus of the party. He’s not very bright. I suspect the grand jurors are just rabid progressives, too, and they are all in the wing of “let’s put the SOB behind bars.” They hate him. They call him vulgarities instead of the President. They just want him in prison, and they’ll do anything to get him there.
First, “The Democrats” are not indicting Trump. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is not a branch of the Democratic National Committee. It may be that a Republican D.A. in a similar circumstance would be secretly working in tandem with GOP political operatives to bring indictments, or not, based on political calculations rather than facts. But I’d like to think the Democrats haven’t sunk to that level yet. And as far as Alvin Bragg’s intelligence is concerned, the guy graduated Harvard magna cum laude and got his J.D. from Harvard Law, where he was an editor of the Harvard Civil Rights–Civil Liberties Law Review. Erickson has a J.D. from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, which may be a fine school, but I can’t say I ever heard of it before.
I heartily recommend this New York Times article, How Alvin Bragg Resurrected the Case Against Donald Trump (no paywall). It explains why Bragg appeared to drop the Trump case a year ago and then took it up again. According to this article, Bragg never completely dropped the case.
The two leaders of the investigation had recently resigned after the new district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, decided not to charge Mr. Trump at that point. Amid a fierce backlash to his decision — and a brutal start to his tenure — Mr. Bragg insisted that the investigation was not over. But a disbelieving media questioned why, if the effort was still moving forward, there were few signs of it.
“Unless y’all are great poker players,” Mr. Bragg told The New York Times in an early April 2022 interview, “you don’t know what we’re doing.”
What they were doing, new interviews show, was going back to square one, poring over the reams of evidence that had already been collected by his predecessor.
The two lawyers who resigned were Mark F. Pomerantz and Carey Dunne, you might remember. Pomerantz is the one who wrote the book criticizing the Manhattan D.A. for not going forward with the case. The Times article says that other prosecutors were concerned that the case Dunne and Pomerantz were putting together had holes in it. So Bragg called a halt to it and began a review of the evidence.
The research laid the groundwork for a more robust investigation. The remaining members of the team split up into small groups to focus on different topics, including the financial statements and the eye-catching payoff that was the original impetus for Mr. Vance to open an investigation into Mr. Trump in 2018: the hush-money deal.
At that point Bragg put together a new team to work on the case. So it may be that Bragg has a stronger case now with evidence nobody knows about yet. We’ll see. Alvin Bragg’s background suggests he’s a smart guy who has worked too hard to throw away his career bringing a weak case against Donald Trump. We’ll know more after the arraignment.
In the meantime, do enjoy Colbert from Thursday night.