The Arraignment

Why shouldn’t a former president face criminal charges?. Or even a sitting president? Isn’t equality under the law one of the central tenets of American justice?

Donald Trump in turns himself in at a New York courthouse today to face charges – exactly what he doesn’t know yet – and his appearance will be the lead story in every newscast. You can’t buy this kind of publicity. His supporters will be rallying outside. Possibly a few of his detractors also.

In the old days of a decade ago, felony charges would be the kiss of death to a political career. Welcome to the new age, where fact is fiction and TV reality.. (Yes, the quote was deliberate.)

Do these charges have a political dimension? Certainly. Are they politically motivated? I suppose it is possible, but I doubt it. After all, the indictment comes not from the Manhattan district attorney but from a grand jury. I would think that would reduce the chance of someone looking to settle a political score.

We don’t use grand juries much in Canada. Here the crown attorney, who is a civil servant, makes the decision to go ahead with charges or not. I’m not sure an American district attorney, who has to face the voters, would want to be the one to lay charges against Trump. Maybe that is why it hasn’t happened before despite many suggestions of malfeasance – nobody wanted to be first.

Of course there is a drawback to the grand jury system – proceedings are held in secret and there is no defense given or even represented. It is easy for someone to seem really guilty when there is no attempt at presenting the other side of the story. Securing a guilty verdict in a trial is a lot tougher. Somehow I doubt Trump is worried about the outcome..

This isn’t the first time Donald Trump has had legal troubles. He has spent his entire career avoiding a criminal conviction. His corporations have been found guilty of various charges, but he personally has always managed to escape. It’s that reasonable doubt concept.

Court cases can drag on for years. The chances of this one being settled before the 2024 presidential election seem slim to me. Unless, that is, Trump thinks a quick verdict will help his re-election campaign, in which case he won’t let the proceedings drag on. The defense is in teh driver’s seat when it comes to timing.

What to me is interesting is that there is no shame involved here. That a number of women received “hush money” to not talk about their relationship with the married Trump doesn’t seem the issue. It’s not about morality or the sanctity of marriage, it is about the legality of the payments and where the funds came from that are in contention.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately about political ethics and what we expect of our politicians. Supposedly we hold them to a higher standard than we do ourselves. We expect our representatives to be better than us. Given that, I’m not sure how to explain Donald Trump.

One scholarly paper I read approached Trump through a post-modernist lens. It was explanatory and chilling. If there are no absolutes, no right and wrong and everything is “fake news,” then Donald Trump makes perfect sense. Though maybe I didn’t understand the argument – post-modernism hurts my brain.

The funny thing is, I don’t know why the “hush money” payments Trump is alleged to have authorized wouldn’t be entered into the books as a legitimate business expense (or election expense if they were made when he was a candidate). The women invlved, by not tarnishing Trump’s reputation, provided a service, a tangible benefit. In today’s society isn’t that all that counts? Or maybe I just don’t understand.

Donald Trump has a history of dancing to his own beat, with a flagrant disregard for the rules that apply to others. I read recently that there were 3,700 documented cases of conflict of interest violations during his four-year presidential term. Is that “fake news” or a shocking reality? I find that number hard to believe, but then again, Donald Trump has always been above the ordinary.

One thing is certain given the tenor of the times; this trial will be a media circus. Is it a more important story than inflation? Or the opioid crisis? Or the war in Ukraine? Don’t be silly – who has time for those when Donald Trump is on trial?

Most people have probably already made up their mind on Trump’s guilt or innocence, even before teh details of the charges have been made public and a word of testimony heard. Which is what Doald Trump wants.

He doesn’t care if you think he’s guilty or innocent because it is all “fake news.” He just wants the attention. And I just gave him some. So did you.

He knows what he is doing, even if it doesn’t make sense to the rest of us.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: