As has been heard dozens and dozens of times, to the point where not only readers, but the writers reporting on the situation are getting a bit cynical, news broke yesterday that NY Attorney General Letitia James made a big breakthrough in her civil case against the Trump Organization. It is a civil case in name only. The Attorney General’s office has already admitted that it has staff working with the Manhattan D.A. and any A.G. can turn a civil case into a criminal case as fast as a printer can get a sheet of paper out. Thus, developments of the type that broke late last night and continue this morning are being taken very seriously by the Trumps, quite appropriately.
After all, Eric ended up nearly crying on Hannity last night.
A very emotional Eric Trump almost cries on Hannity pic.twitter.com/htupGUnhiX
— Acyn (@Acyn) February 15, 2022
Whatever. This family has done enough that the last thing we’re going to do is laugh about some bubbling up emotion, other than to point out that they always see themselves as victims.
On to the news. Of course, everyone read yesterday that James filed a document which contained a letter from Mazars, the gigantic international accounting firm, flat stating that tax returns from 2011 to 2020 were not trustworthy due to the numbers they were given, and that they were cutting ties to the Trump Organization. Anyone who thinks the geniuses at Mazars (and they are geniuses, you are not just handed a job like that) were fooled by the Trumps is… well, a MAGA. Mazars almost surely cut a deal with James such that they would assist her office, not out of benevolence, but to ensure that they don’t become part of this entire train wreck.
This morning, we hear that the investigation is honing in on some locked cabinets in the Trump Organization offices themselves, containing documents that the Trumps have fought to keep secret. What could those documents possibly contain? The real numbers? According to Business Insider:
But the two sides will also battle over a vast trove of paperwork the former president has refused to turn over.
According to sources and recent court filings, investigators’ sights are set on two dozen beige, metal file cabinets in the former president’s Trump Tower headquarters on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
The cabinets line a back wall of the skyscraper’s 26th floor, where Trump has his executive offices.
Now, again, the reader will be forgiven for thinking; “I swear I’ve read this same sort of story a dozen times…” because you have. And the next thought is; “And Eric and Co. are still out yelling and no charges are filed, and all that…”
All of which is true. And maddening. Get used to it, despite the fact that David Clay Johnston – the guy who literally wrote a book on the Trump financial arrangements – has a column out at Rawstory, saying that racketeering charges are coming:
Asked about the impact of Mazars severing its ties, Johnston said the same thing we said before seeing the report (honest):
Well, Donald Bender, the Mazars accountant who prepares Trump’s tax returns testified before the Manhattan grand jury and New York has this very unusual law, if you testify before the grand jury, you are granted immunity. That’s not true at the federal level and in other states. So, he no longer is in concern personally for anything he may have done, from the Manhattan prosecutors.”
True, but cooperating with the state officials never hurt at the federal level, either.
“But, it does mean that Mazars is helping the prosecutors put together the, what I expect, will be a racketeering case. A New York state racketeering case against Trump, the Trump Organization, Allen Weissingberg and probably Donald’s three older children.
Johnston then goes on a long diatribe about how this will happen, the nuts and bolts of it, and does it with a level of certainty that makes at least some of us chuckle.
Analysis: The Many Moving Parts To Prosecuting An Ex-President
First of all, the Manhattan D.A. has likely had enough evidence to prosecute the Trumps for a year and has not done it. Getting more evidence, scaring the Trumps won’t hurt, but it won’t necessarily result in the charges Johnston predicts with such confidence, either.
Prosecutors don’t live in a vacuum. By all rights, Trump and his organization would have been held accountable long ago. But now we’re talking about a state – not the federal government – a state, charging an ex-president and holding him accountable, which, frankly, isn’t very good precedent. Every single crime New York finds would have almost necessarily been committed at the federal level, too. Yet DOJ wants no part of this. Why? Now that is a good question, one we’ll attempt to answer below.
Prosecuting an ex-president just is somewhat inherently political, no getting around it, and that sucks, but it’s reality, no matter how solid your proof. And it’s especially dangerous with this particular ex-president, whose followers may attempt to burn Manhattan to the ground (And don’t for a second think that thought hasn’t loomed heavily in the minds occupying that D.A.’s office.)
Regardless, it seems never-ending. “More evidence! They’re in trouble now! Charges any day!”
Get used to it. The Trumps may even get that criminal charge, but at least this writer/lawyer doesn’t see this ever going to trial, never mind a Trump in an orange jumpsuit and not just because the presumption includes finding 12 jurors, none of which is a MAGA who lied their way onto the panel for the specific purpose of nullifying the verdict. This country really needs to consider whether having a state prosecute an ex-president is a road it wants to travel. Remember, everything we ever do to a Republican comes back, squared, against Democrats.
In a way, one could look at the investigation, the pressure, the need to do things properly from now on, as punishment and accountability in and of itself. It would not be the first time a prosecutor has extensively investigated and even charged a person or entity that they really never planned on convicting (for various difficult reasons) but did so as part punishment and part message in and of itself.
No, if one wants to prosecute a president, it almost necessarily needs a “United States of America v. Ex-President” in the caption. That case is brought by the entire country, whether Texas likes it or not. It has far more validity (go back to why the feds aren’t cooperating with New York. They want no part of it). IF one is going to charge a president, it will most likely be done by the federal government, and likely be the single most simple crime to prove in existence, destruction of documents, or perhaps hiding and holding Above Top Secret documents.
As much as the Trumps deserve prison on dozens of available felonies, there are just so many moving parts, so many things outside the criminal justice system to consider (our health as a democracy is but one), that it is hard to envision any of this ever coming to a completion, which might be why we haven’t seen anything really “start” yet. Think about how much work Congress has done? They need not fear the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey might say.
The New York cases, perhaps even the federal cases, will likely be settled with a gigantic fine, in which the Trumps are precluded from certain business transactions going forward but without an admission that they did anything wrong. Do not get me or us wrong. The Trumps deserve prison, much more so than half the people sitting in prison today. In a stronger democracy, they would go to prison. It is a testament to this country’s weakness, both as a democracy and with respect to its commitment to the rule of law that they likely will not. But it is also reality.
Jason Miciak is a political writer, features writer, author, and attorney. He is originally from Canada but grew up in the Pacific Northwest as a dual Canadian-American citizen, which he grows increasingly thankful for every day. He now enjoys life as a single dad, writing from the beaches of the Gulf Coast, getting advice from his beloved daughter and teammate. He is very much the dreamy mystic that cannot add and loves dogs more than most people. He also likes studying cooking, theoretical physics, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. He likes pizza.
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