Tuesday, February 23, 2021


If you're hoping we'll soon see the downfall of Donald Trump in a Manhattan courtroom, you might need to temper your expectations.
Terabytes of data. Dozens of prosecutors, investigators and forensic accountants sifting through millions of pages of financial documents. An outside consulting firm drilling down on the arcana of commercial real estate and tax strategies.

That is the monumental task that lies ahead in the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation into former President Donald J. Trump and his family business after a United States Supreme Court order on Monday cleared the way for prosecutors to obtain eight years worth of Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial records.
Settle in. This will take a while.

And if a case is brought against Trump, it's unlikely that it will tell an emotionally compelling story.
The subpoenas relate to a central aspect of [Manhattan DA Cyrus] Vance’s inquiry, which focuses on whether Mr. Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, inflated the value of some of his signature properties to obtain the best possible loans, while lowballing the values to reduce property taxes, people with knowledge of the matter have said. The prosecutors are also examining the Trump Organization’s statements to insurance companies about the value of various assets.
A monster like Trump and that's what we're going to get him on? Tinkering with the stated values of his properties so he can get better terms on loans and shave some dollars off his taxes?

Sure, if it happens, it will be satisfying to those of us who already despise him. And I'm not saying that we need to charge him with offenses so egregious that even MAGA Nation will turn against him -- that could never happen, even if he killed someone in cold blood.

But there are many Americans in the middle -- people who don't love or hate Trump. Their equivalents in the 1970s eventually acknowledged that Richard Nixon was a bad man whose resignation was good for the country.

Donald Trump is much worse than Nixon, and yet Trump's poll numbers never sunk to the mid-20s during his presidency, the way Nixon's did, even after two impeachments. Nixon was eventuslly regarded as the greatest living monster in American politics. Much of America still doesn't see Trump that way.

Many Americans assume that everyone in big business cooks the books. They think New York real estate is a tough, cutthroat enterprise, and that you have to work the angles to make money.

Many Americans won't understand what the crimes are. They'll be bored by the details. They won't see how they were harmed by what Trump did. Remember when The New York Times obtained Trump tax records and ran a massive story about the financial chicanery they revealed? Most of America yawned.

I'd love to see Trump go to prison. But I'd also love to see him become the national pariah that Nixon became, someone who's an embarrassment even to his party-mates. We're not there yet. And a long investigation into business crimes, followed by a trial focused on a complicated parsing of financial documents, won't get us there.

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