Wednesday, May 26, 2021


You'd think this would please me:
Manhattan's district attorney has convened the grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict former president Donald Trump, other executives at his company or the business itself, should prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges, according to two people familiar with the development.

The panel was convened recently and will sit three days a week for six months.... Generally, special grand juries such as this are convened to participate in long-term matters rather than to hear evidence of crimes charged routinely.

The move indicates that District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s investigation of the former president and his business has reached an advanced stage after more than two years. It suggests, too, that Vance thinks he has found evidence of a crime — if not by Trump, by someone potentially close to him or by his company.
So we don't know whether there'll be any indictments at all. There could be indictments of underlings or children but not Donald Trump.

Now consider the nature of the offenses that are under investigation:
Vance’s ... investigators are scrutinizing Trump’s business practices before he was president, including whether the value of specific properties in the Trump Organization’s real estate portfolio were manipulated in a way that defrauded banks and insurance companies, and if any tax benefits were obtained illegally through unscrupulous asset valuation.

The district attorney also is examining the compensation provided to top Trump Organization executives, people familiar with the matter have said.
This would be good for the country if it inspired voters who are moderately pro-Trump (and pro-GOP) to rethink their support. Most of Trump's backers are superfans, but he won his first election, and came disturbingly close to winning his second, because of these not-so-fervent Trump voters.

But these aren't charges that will inspire revulsion. The response is likely to be Oh, businessmen, they all do that. If you want to be a billionaire like Trump, you have to be a little bit crooked. I'm sure all the other billionaires in New York are worse than that. (I think that's how many less-engaged Democratic voters will feel as well.)

And in the meantime, if Trump is indicted, there'll be an extended period of time when he's charged but not convicted. To Trump's biggest fans, and even to many of the softer supporters, the indictment will be proof that an evil liberal cabal runs the world and devotes most of its energy to trying to destroy Donald Trump, because Trump wants to right all of America's wrongs and the evil cabal knows it will be destroyed in the process if that happens.

I don't look forward to a trial. A dozen or so years ago, there were plans to try Guantanamo prisoners in lower Manhattan, not far from where the Twin Towers fell. That never happened because interested parties felt that the trial would pose a great risk of terrorism to lower Manhattan. I feel the same way about a trial of Donald Trump -- there'll be a risk of a January 6, or worse, every day court is in session. And I sure as hell wouldn't want to be a juror on a Trump trial.

Even if there's no violence, a trial would inspire heavy turnout of Trump voters in the next election cycle -- and I don't think it would inspire Democratic voters the same way. For most Democratic voters, Trump is in the rearview mirror. They're happy to consign him to the past. But his fate is an ongoing grievence for GOP voters. Trial news will get them to the polls.

Maybe a conviction would have the impact that January 6, Russiagate, and two impeachments didn', but I'm not optimistic. We keep waiting for the moment when Trump becomes Richard Nixon, a Republican conceded to be a crook even by most Republicans. But it's not 1974. If that moment didn't come during Trump's term, then it'll never come.

But I don't believe Trump (or any member of his family) will ever go to jail. If he does, it won't be soon. The grand jury will sit for months if not longer. The trial (if there is one) won't happen until next year at the earliest. The case will be complex, and will be based on laws that include many loopholes tailored for the rich. If there's a conviction, the appeals process will take years.

And all the while, Republican voters will regard Trump as their Mumia or Leonard Peltier. I'd be thrilled if a legal case against Donald Trump made America a better place, but it's more likely to sustain our current toxicity than it is to purge it.

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