Monday, April 15, 2024

Today's The Day

Today's the day Donald Trump goes to criminal court. Jennifer Rubin writes:

The day has finally arrived for the historic trial in Manhattan of Donald Trump on charges of falsifying business documents. The case concerns Trump’s scheme to conceal embarrassing information from voters in the 2016 election. Derided as a “rump” case, or “trivial,” it actually may be the most consequential of the four criminal cases facing the former president.

“This is the case that reflects the efforts Trump went through to influence the 2016 election — and it worked. He won the election,” says Karen Friedman Agnifilo, who worked for decades in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. “And he only won by a slim margin of fewer than 80,000 votes in three swing states.” Trump sought to buy off two women who said they had sexual encounters with him (Trump denies that) because he not unreasonably feared he would lose if, in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape, these allegations came out.

Some people claim that the case is a storm in a teacup. Not so, writes Rubin:

If you doubt the importance of this case, consider an alternate history: Trump never silenced these women, Hillary Clinton won, three right-wing justices did not get appointed, Roe v. Wade remained law, and Trump never had the chance to attempt a coup in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Much depended on the facts set out in the indictment.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has not changed his theory of the case. What’s changed is the slow realization among commentators that the case revolves around allegations that, if proven true in court, will amount to Trump’s first — and only successful attempt — to use deception and illegal means to gain power.

To begin, we can never prove that “but for” the payoff scheme Trump would have lost. Constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe tells me, “It’s inherent in the nature of things and the limits of human knowledge that one can never demonstrate with certainty how history would have unfolded had one or another pivotal event, including an obviously crucial deception of tens of millions of people who hadn’t yet come to expect the worst of Mr. Trump, not occurred.”

But if any crime in pursuit of office would be deemed the decisive event in 2016 and beyond, Tribe said, “the felonies charged by Alvin Bragg in the New York prosecution that is about to unfold in real time qualify for that designation.”

In sum, the case that begins today is not frivolous, minor or particularly prurient. To the contrary, the first trial of a former president has grave importance as a means of holding Trump accountable for the scheme that lifted him to power. It marks the first instance of Trump maneuvering to win an election through deception. To boot, a multi-count felony conviction might result in prison time. That may explain why Trump has been so desperate to delay it.

Exactly. This is the case that set the whole sad saga off. We await a decision.

Image: The Washington Post

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