The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Trump Found Guilty: Will It Matter?

As for the politics, I don’t know. My guess is it won’t make much difference. Even if he’s given prison time, he’ll appeal and I can’t see him having to run his campaign from prison.

In the larger American domestic context, I think this may presage an era of lawfare. One of the norms of American politics is that elites, unless they betray other elites, are immune to prosecution for a wide variety of crimes which would ruin an ordinary person. Democrats, of course, consider Trump, thru the Jan 7 riot/coup attempt, to have betrayed, but many Republicans don’t see it that way and the likely response will be to use their prosecutors in Red states to go after Biden, just as Democrats used prosecution in a blue state.

This will go until one side wins and other submits, or until both get sick of it and decide to go back to old norms or create new ones.

As for the crime itself, there’s no question that Trump paid blackmail money then tried to hide the payments. As crimes goes, it’s pretty lame. The real crimes Trump committed, like helping kill over 350,000 Yemenis, are crimes where the norm of never charging elites still hold solid. Mass murder IS the business of US government, after all, and virtually every still-living President has engaged in it.

Meanwhile, Obama helped banks steal people’s houses with forged paperwork: literally forged. If you want to prosecute white collar crime, that seems a little more consequential than a payment covering up extra-marital sex.

But hey, that’s just me. I’m in that small un-American group of people who think mass murder and using fraud to steal people’s homes are more serious than covering up adultery, but, hey, whatever.

Anyone, Trump’s guilty, and I’m entirely sure he really is guilty of the crime, such as it is, and it’s not like I have any sympathy for the schmuck: he was a crook all through his business career (and, note was never prosecuted, even though it was common knowledge) and committed plenty of crimes as President. Prosecuting him for what is one of the least his crimes (even among his frauds) is pretty lame.

The entire episode really displays how screwed up American values and the US legal system are.

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18 Comments

  1. NR

    I pretty much agree with this post. Though it’s worth noting that “lawfare” has been going on for quite some time. Look into the Siegelman case in Alabama, where a Democratic governor was prosecuted by Republicans at the behest of Karl Rove on completely trumped-up (no pun intended) charges.

    Anyway, out of all the cases against Trump, this one is the least likely to land him in prison. Which is probably why it was allowed to go forward while the others haven’t been.

  2. Willy

    In 2015 I read an op-ed about how he didn’t really want the presidency, written by some loser or sucker projecting their own psychology.

    All Trump’s kind wants is power… a license to steal, a license to do anything. As far as MAGAs are concerned, with Trump being made, it’s like all MAGAs are being made. They’d now have one of their own as THE member.

    Good luck if you’re a lefty, or any regular goody-good person working a shitty job for bum paychecks taking the subway to work every day, worried about your bills. You’ll be dead. I mean, suckers with no balls. If a made-MAGA wants something, they’ll just take it. If anyone complains twice they’ll get hit so bad, believe me, they’ll never complain again.

  3. marku52

    I disagree on guilty. The prosecution was essentially assembled out of whole cloth, local misdemeanors past the time limit somehow ginned into a federal election charge, an obviously biased judge whose daughter makes big money working for the DNC, bad instructions to the jury, expert witness not being allowed to testify. The lead witness perjurs himself during the trial. It was all a hopeless mess without judicial precedent. And of course, there is a ton of actual shit from the past that Trump should have been prosecuted for, but never was, because, the rich are different from you and me.

    I hope Trumps SS detail is really on the ball. There is apparently no line too far for the TDS crowd at this point.

  4. Mark Level

    Agreed. I listened to Chapo Trap House yesterday & they had 2 lawyers on from a legal podcast just as the verdicts came in– they said essentially what you said. The D. vs R. tribes are faithful to their Rulers.

    Biden will lose this time because inflation & the economy are significantly worse than they were under Trump, who helped pass out a Covid “Stimulus” of checks to keep the economy from crashing, whereas Joe lied he would do a full payout & did a smaller amount (which made no difference given the inflation) when his term started.

    I was a (D) for 4 decades but stopped after Obama’s first (really Dubya’s third) term, I could no longer fall for the charade. Lotsa Shit Libs do, but between a bad economy and an ongoing genocide plus the crash of the Empire over-committed to too many wars (they refuse to drop Ukraine though it’s just a money sink, well it does allow them to steal & get MIC donations), young voters & Arab voters despise Biden & likely won’t support him.

    I think the followers of both parties are suckers, but the (D) followers are bigger suckers. Biden literally promised the donor class “Fundamentally nothing will change,” & that’s what he delivered. That’s a nothing-burger that nobody who is dissatisfied will be supportive of– and the # of dissatisfied voters is growing for both parties.

    Everything shamblin’ Joe has done has been a failure. They can’t even conquer the Houthis . . . Trump at least delivered some “accomplishments” to his voters: he canceled Obama’s toxic TPP Treaty (an actual good act), he delivered the overturn of Roe to the Fetus Fanatics (bad, but the base wants it), big tax cuts for the richest, & lots of culture war distractions, Red meat to those voters.

    Usually people will pick Something over Nothing. Harper’s magazine called Obama a Nowhere Man at the end of his term, but he at least was telegenic & made good speeches while fvcking us little people over. Joe delivers nothing. It’s probably too late to shoehorn handsome Gavin Newsom in there (the Getty family’s bff), but that Hail Mary might give the Dems a 2-5% vote boost. Biden has 1.5 feet in the grave while also being dead in the water. He’s currently polling lower than Bush was at this point in his 2nd term (which was the kiss of death for Jeb against Trump in the ’16 primaries).

    Oh, lastly, Hunter’s trial is coming up soon so yes, the lawfare goes both ways.

  5. someofparts

    There is an open thread about this over at Naked Capitalism that does a good job of voicing the range of perspectives here. Your thinking that Republican prosecutors in red states will start going after local Democrats seems spot on, as affirmed by a commenter who heard exactly that from a local Dem politician.

  6. different clue

    If the Democraparty and the Republiparty lawfare eachother harder and harder and harder, they might create a semi-durable vacuum which could be filled by a semi-durable sincere and serious Third Party which would be playing the Long Game over the Long Haul. ( There may not be enough time for the Long Haul to play out, but that is another matter).

    Ideally it would be a serious Party with a seriously unromantic name like . . . New Deal Revival Party, or Lower Class Majority Party, or Social Democrat Party or some such thing. If such a Party had a platform to match its name, Republicans would probably oppose it and revile it rather than try to infiltrate it. The present iteration of Democrats ( New Yuppie Scumocrats, Clintonites, Obamazoids, DLCs, Hamilton Projectors, etc.) would try to infiltrate it and destroy and corrupt it from within, to pre-neutralize its effectiveness in reversing the New Yuppie Scumocrat agenda and project.

    Such a Party would have to create a powerful and effective Intelligence and Counter Intelligence Bureau to spot and destroy every cell of malignant metastatic clintonoma and every Yersiniobama pestis plague germ which tries to infiltrate said Party. If such pseudo-Democrat filth cannot be spotted and neutralized every single time, then such a Party would have to make present or past membership in the Democratic Party rigid grounds for rigid exclusion from membership in the new hopeful Party. ( ” Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Democratic Party?”) Maybe it would have to be a dues-paying membership-based Party rather than an entrepreneurial fund-raising Party. Maybe it would need its own Party Newspaper, with maybe a humorous name like The Biased Liberadical Press or some such thing.

  7. mago

    Haven’t had time to dive into the NC article and comments, so don’t know what they’re saying.
    I do know what some of the spiritually inclined libs I know are saying, which is mostly hooray for our side. Good triumphing over the forces of evil. Such dualistic and simplistic thinking.
    I’m like do you have any idea how they play the game at that level?
    The masses are caught in a thick fog while multiple crises scream full speed down the highway.
    Trump. Biden. Blue. Red. The divisions multiply exponentially.
    We’re so screwed. . .

  8. somecomputerguy

    The Bush Administration fired (Republican) federal prosecutors who wouldn’t pursue prosecutions of Democratic office-holders.

    So, line crossed, long ago.

    Yet Democrats who should know, say they are afraid of this as though it hasn’t already happened.

  9. someofparts

    Kind of hilariously, I found out from a blue-no-matter-who relative. I just got some nifty new wireless earbuds so I was asking said relative to recommend music he likes. The pithy response I got this morning was “34 Indictments”. So I thought, well, that’s a pretty odd name for a band.

    Also, since I wandered this far off topic anyway, feel free to recommend musics you love, fellow citizens of the commentariat. I just recently discovered Billy Strings and Snarky Puppy. So I’m psyched that there seems to be all kinds of incredible music out there that my old boomer self is just finding out about. Yeah, I have boomer friends who still just listen to Little Feat or Talking Heads, which are great of course, but I personally don’t wanna miss out on musics that happened since the 70s and 80s.

  10. someofparts

    somecomputerguy – Solid point. I remember all of that. It was like seven, or eight, of what turned out to be top people, with superstar resumes, who made some news by refusing to play along. Which raised the question of all the other federal prosecutors who did participate. Before the story broke I had been seeing odd news blips here and there about judges who would dismiss cases with great anger. The game seemed to be that a bogus case would be brought just to generate headlines right before an election. As I recall, it tended to work, and multiple Democrats lost elections by a hair. Then, after the election, the case would make it to court, which is where the various stories of judges angrily throwing out the cases would crop up. Sometimes I wish hell and an afterlife of eternal fiery torment existed so that people like Karl Rove could go there.

  11. mago

    “Sometimes I wish hell and an afterlife of eternal fiery torment existed so that people like Karl Rove could go there.”

    Don’t worry someofparts, hell realms exist, although not quite in the Christian sense.

    Actions have consequences. Some call it karma. Karl and the club he belongs to are going to roast for a long long time.
    Without elaborating, its a trap to celebrate that plight given one’s own precarious position.

  12. bruce wilder

    Trump has always seemed to me to be such a con man, that I just assume there are crimes that he could be prosecuted for, which even his fanbase would recognize as crimes. But, that doesn’t seem to be the game here, with this lawfare business.

    The Democrats who are doing this are doing it in a way that is unlikely to persuade Trump’s Republican base that Trump should be disqualified for office. The Democrats seem almost proud to push an objectively dubious prosecution, to bait Trump’s supporters.

    Ian says, “there’s no question that Trump paid blackmail money then tried to hide the payments” Neither one of those things by themselves are necessarily and obviously felonious. It seems to me you have to elide all objectivity and perspective regarding what is criminal.

    So, he paid a hooker to keep quiet about his adultery and used a shady attorney as a fixer, labeling payments passed thru that lawyer, “legal fees”. Because the whole point of paying blackmail includes not publicizing that you’re paying blackmail.

    I don’t think adultery should be a crime, nor do I think someone else’s adultery should be any concern of mine. I don’t think election campaigns should turn on sexual scandals. I wouldn’t want to lose the New Deal to the “horror” some might have felt about FDR’s need for handjobs. I didn’t think Bill Clinton should have been impeached over taking advantage of a star-struck intern.

    Democrats and many left-leaning observers seem to have lost their perspective. And, they have definitely stopped caring what people not duly enrolled in their tribe might think. I agree with Ian that people ought to care about suborning large-scale criminal frauds in the banking industry or bombing foreign countries wantonly.

    Will New York State prosecutors go after Hillary Clinton for paying to have the pee-tape dossier created and peddled to the FISA court? Because, objectively, her campaign checked all the boxes with those shenanigans and more.

    It is a dangerous business to lose all touch with objective, shared reality — way beyond merely eroding norms of civility. It is a general abdication of governance by the governing classes.

  13. Willy

    I’m trying to wrap my head around the logic that replacing something poor with another thing that’s objectively far worse, will lead to improving the situation. Seems completely irrational to me.

    Even worse is the logic that something objectively far worse is actually far better, no matter what anybody else says.

    But maybe the old “but he’ll burn it all down” protest vote does make sense to one whose own life situation must be truly dire. For from the ashes of disaster springs success. Or something. I’d be considering this logic, except that there never seems to be any kind of plan being considered after burning it all down. If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them by burning it all down.

    I never voted for Trump, but I did have the self-soothing hope that he’d at least secure the border, limit immigration, drain the swamp, and limit the offshoring of the jobs and technology which I helped build. Stuff that I’d wanted and which he’d promised which jibed.

    At the end of the day, he did none of those things. It had all been complete bullshit.

    He’s even recently begged for donations from our greenhouse gas barons, presumably in exchange for even more power for those same greenhouse gas barons. As for Israel, he’d be no different from every other president we’ve had since 1948, supportive of Zionism. In fact, he’d be far worse.

    An analogy is a man dumping their low-quality wife who’s at least been faithful, for one who’s guaranteed to cheat on them before taking all of their assets, in order to send a message to all the other ladies that this is what’ll happen if they don’t perform exactly as desired. Not very compelling.

  14. Purple Library Guy

    Although I’m generally in agreement with this post, I feel I should note that what made it a crime had nothing to do with the fact that he was paying blackmail money to have someone keep a secret about sex. What made it a crime was that he falsified business records in the process of paying it, and that it wasn’t his money, it was campaign money. If he had gone to his bank, taken out many thousands of dollars in cash from one of his own personal accounts, and had his lawyer hand that money to Stormy Daniels in a paper bag, there would have been no crime.

    He used campaign money instead of his own money because he’s a cheap-ass grifter, and he falsified business records, quite badly, because a record of campaign funds being used to pay off a porn star would have raised questions like “Why are you taking campaign money to use for stuff that isn’t the campaign, when that’s illegal?” and “Wait, porn star?”

  15. bruce wilder

    @ Purple Library Guy

    It was Trump Organization money and one of the arguments made was that it was effectively an illegal campaign contribution since it was used for a campaign purpose. The business records were those of the Trump Organization.

    Edwards was prosecuted for using campaign funds and acquitted as I recalled.

    Hillary Clinton and the DNC paid a minor fine for the Steele Dossier.

  16. different clue

    @Willy,

    I’m sorry to say that the not-very-compelling message you point out is not very compelling is in fact very compelling to hopers and dreamers and seekers after something truly good who feel let down and betrayed.

    They want revenge and maybe revenge will be its own reward. The NaCap leadership and much of its readership wants revenge on the Democrats and will end up supporting Trump and doing all kinds of magasbara for himself and his base. The justice for Palestine community wants revenge on Biden for accepting ( by not short-circuiting them) the particular ways and means and results of Israel’s war against Gaza under cover of a “war against Hamas”. Some of the young protesters have even mocked attendees at DemParty events by saying “enjoy your Trump, because we will never vote for Biden no matter what Biden does or doesn’t do going forward.” Of course they will get to enjoy our Trump as well, but they may deem it worth the price to send the ClintoBiden Democrats a message. Now . . . if they have a follow-on action-battle plan to begin a Long March through the DemParty Institutions in order to conquer the DemParty over the next few decades and make it exclusively their own party and no one else’s party, they may prove themselves right in the long run. So . . . do they have a plan for DemParty Conquest?

  17. somecomputerguy

    I am a lefty and completely understand people calling bullshit on this conviction.

    But, this case had more substance than the cases those Bush prosecutors were fired over. It has more substance than the Hunter Biden case, and actual political relevance.

    I would gladly extinguish this conviction, in exchange for a trial, not a conviction mind you, just a trial, for anything else Trump is accused of.

    It is just as likely everyone accused of a national security crime, that is less dire than the ones Trump is accused of (i.e. everyone accused or convicted in the last twenty years; Assange, Snowden, Winner, etc.), will have their charges dropped/their conviction suspended until Trumps document trial starts.

    These are some hard-working super-genius we have.

  18. StewartM

    If you can’t hold Trump, who is so flagrantly and obviously guilty responsible for his crimes, there’s no hope of holding anyone near the reins of power. So holding Trump in power is a ‘must-do’ if you want to even have the hope of cleaning up our politics. Also, the real reason Trump hasn’t been held accountable for his more serious crimes is that he has friends he appointed on the courts protecting him.

    As for holding our top war criminals accountable—I agree in principle, but a) no other country does this, and we’re no better; and b) we can’t even hold the Lt Calleys and Eddie Gallaghers, the lowest-ranking officers who are obviously guilty of war crimes in confinement (let alone real prison) for any period of time whatsoever. Gallagher himself was pardoned by Trump, so anything that happens to Trump is deserved for that.

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