Court sketch depicts former President Donald Trump and his attorney appearing via video from Florida at a court hearing before Judge Juan Merchan in Manhattan on May 23, 2023. (Credit: Jane Rosenberg)
The recent indictments of former president Donald Trump are political acts intended to keep him from becoming president again. But the impact of dubious legal precedent should be of greater concern than helping the democrats achieve electoral victories that rarely benefit the people.
“Do they consider as part of a potential plea offer, something that would proscribe him… proscribe him from running for office again? I don’t know.”
"I would imagine if anything like that happened that it would have to come from the defense side of the negotiation. That the Trump team would say, ‘Oh, by the way, and with this, we will also, you know, drop out of the race for president.'"
Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell
Donald Trump once again presents conundrums for those on the left. Like every other U.S. president his administration subverted justice at home and abroad. Unlike other presidents he didn’t have the wisdom to obey the niceties that absolve them of their many acts of terrible criminality. Invasions, proxy wars and crime bills are all forgotten by people eager to think well of political leadership.
Trump’s appeal to the basest instincts of white nationalism made him persona non grata to people who ought to be more discerning in their analysis. Despite the assertion that Trump is somehow uniquely unfit to serve, his policies were all in line with those of his predecessors and conformed with the wishes of the U.S. oligarchic class and the military industrial complex. The crimes he committed on behalf of the U.S. are never called into question and like those of other presidents will never be punished.
He is being punished by democrats who fear that he can become president again and they are doubling down on their efforts to prevent him from running. In addition to being indicted just two months ago for falsifying business records he now faces a 37-count indictment which includes charges of obstruction of justice and 31-counts of violating the Espionage Act. What these two indictments have in common is that the charges can be addressed with lesser charges or no charges but the pathway of deference usually paid to powerful people is suddenly nowhere to be found.
It is ironic that Trump used the very problematic Espionage Act while he was president. It was a means of indicting Julian Assange and others, but now the former president is hoisted on his own petard. The Espionage Act is a relic of Woodrow Wilson’s Red Scare policies and doesn’t require that the person charged actually engage in espionage. Being in possession of government documents can be sufficient for prosecution and that is why Trump is once again in legal jeopardy.
But it is a mistake to allow schadenfreude to cloud one’s judgment. The precedents set by these indictments of Trump pose dangers for everyone. This effort to prevent Trump from becoming president again will harm the legal system and jeopardize everyone’s rights.
One stunning example of how the law has been undermined is the subversion of the doctrine of attorney and client privilege. There is a carve out called a crime-fraud exception. It allows prosecutors to use what is ordinarily privileged information if they convince a judge that an attorney used legal advice to commit an ongoing crime. It is an understatement to say that this rule is a slippery slope, a precedent which should be of concern to everyone who wants to ensure justice for all.
This most recent indictment is a travesty on top of a travesty. The charge of falsifying business records can be treated as a misdemeanor and stemmed from Trump’s effort to hide an affair by paying people to be silent about his private life. In fact, the Manhattan District Attorney was initially reluctant to charge him with a felony at all. But it isn’t hard to imagine that the drive to keep Trump from running ultimately resulted in that 34-count indictment.
Joe Biden is running too, and the incumbent president’s approval rating stands at a meager 40%. Propaganda gaslighting about “the most progressive president since FDR” and “cutting child poverty in half” are a distant memory as the end of the covid emergency and a debt ceiling deal with republicans deprived millions of people of their medicaid and SNAP benefits. Biden has no real constituency among the public who have seen that he provided little aside from not being Donald Trump. The democratic wing of the duopoly will surely raise $1 billion for his campaign as they did in 2020 but they can’t force enthusiasm or make anyone go to the polls in the numbers that they need to ensure victory.
If Biden and the rest of the Democratic Party lived up to their manufactured hype they wouldn’t have to worry about Donald Trump running again. But hype is all they have. There are still billions of dollars allocated to wage a proxy war in Ukraine and the vilification of republicans as “extreme MAGA” ends at the door of the smoke filled room where treacherous deals are made. Biden has good reason to be worried and that is why the legal system has been used to get Donald Trump. They may succeed in sabotaging his election campaign but absent some change in policy, another republican like Florida governor Ron DeSantis could be the next president of the United States. That outcome would be just deserts for the political class which has nothing to offer the people, and the people always lose no matter who is in the white house.
Margaret Kimberley is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents. You can support her work on Patreonand also find it on the Twitterand Telegramplatforms. She can be reached via email at margaret.kimberley(at)blackagendareport.com.